Shocking storage unit horror stories from Reddit – and how to avoid your own

Storage units can be sketchy places, and these disasters from Redditors are perfect examples of why.

Row of yellow indoor storage units
Row of yellow indoor storage units (Credit: Aga Adameck | Unsplash)

The storage unit industry doesn't have the most sterling reputation. Between robberies, stingy insurance coverage, and being fodder for reality TV auction show drama, it's difficult (and unwise) to trust any old storage company. As you might expect, Reddit is full of nightmare tales from unsuspecting storage unit renters.

Many "Redditors," the denizens who make up Reddit communities, learned the brutal way just how little protection the giant metal doors on their storage units actually offer. Others saw how quickly storage unit companies are happy to charge extra and even auction off their belongings if they're late on rent. Luckily for us, they shared their storage unit horror stories from Reddit, providing valuable lessons and a healthy dose of cringe alongside the frights.

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When Reddit user u/mathworkout first started renting their storage unit, they had the money to afford it. Life eventually took a turn, and they ended up in the hospital with no job and no money to pay the unit rent. A struggle to pay late fees and get their stuff back followed.

I struggled and paid full rent for the month of March but they added extra fees [of] $100. I even paid part of [these] fees but asked if I could remove my stuff so that another month bill does not add to this fee since I definitely would not be able to pay that. What I suggested was to have installment on the remainder of the fees $70 and retrieve my belongings and they said no.

Following the storage company's denial, u/mathworkout attempted to contact someone at the company to escalate the matter. Next, 10 emails reportedly went unanswered. Later in the thread, u/mathworkout says they were able to reach someone at the corporate office but were told they had to pay all fees or their belongings would be sold the following month. At this point, u/mathworkout says the fees were more than the monthly unit rental price.

Thanks to the advice of another Reddit user, though, u/mathworkout was able to get a somewhat happy ending out of this horror story. This Redditor suggested going to the auction for the unit and trying to win the bid. The helpful Redditor said they had been able to buy storage units at auctions for as little as $5, so u/mathworkout could potentially get their stuff back for cheap.

That's exactly what u/mathworkout did, and they won the auction. They never shared how much they paid for the winning bid but eventually got their belongings back.

Don't hesitate to get your items out of storage if your life circumstances change and you can't afford the rent. Late fees can quickly pile up, with your belongings then hitting the auction block. If you get your stuff out as soon as possible, you could save yourself a lot of heartache.

It's a good idea to protect your storage unit with insurance, but watch out for shoddy clerical mistakes. When thieves broke into u/National-Grade3998's storage unit, it led to a related frustrating experience.

The Redditor did everything right when they signed the lease for their unit, even opting to pay for $2,000 in property coverage. After the unit was broken into they attempted to file a claim with the storage unit company and were told the coverage did not apply. When u/National-Grade3998 provided documentation showing they selected $2,000 in property protection on their lease, the company said they were never charged for the coverage so they weren't protected.

I called the storage unit and after some time got escalated to a regional manager who essentially argued the same thing: it looked like I had signed the agreement but they had never charged me for the coverage so I was not covered...

In my mind what is written on the signed lease is what really matters. Whatever screw up or "whoopsie", or glitch they had on their end internally as a company is on them.

The Redditor posted their story on r/AskALawyer to determine if they had a case in small claims court or should pursue arbitration but nothing came of it. Another Redditor who identified themselves as a self-storage owner said that u/National-Grade3988 was unlikely to see any action from the insurance company. While they might be able to argue negligence, they noted that storage insurance usually only kicks in "when a policy is paid." Ouch.

Always check invoices and make sure you pay for the services and coverage you want. It can be easy to throw services on auto-pay and forget about them, but that attitude stings if you miss something. A reputable business may be willing to own up to the mistake, but you can't rely on good morals from every company.

You wouldn't let your stuff sit in a storage unit for years without checking up on it, right? Well, sometimes life gets in the way. When Reddit user u/ProfessionalTossAway had to move away from Charleston, S.C., for five years they eventually returned to a disaster.

After those five years away without checking the storage unit they received a call from the facility manager, who asked for access to his unit so he could replace the ceiling material. Even though they were moving back soon, the job sounded urgent, so the Redditor permitted the manager to cut the lock and do what needed to be done.

After moving back, u/ProfessionalTossAway visited the unit and found everything covered in cockroach debris and rat feces. They explained:

The entire facility (at least the portion my unit is located in) is bad now. If you've ever seen anything that suffered from a roach infestation, you can recognize it right away in the future. Like with laptops and electronics, they have a gross dirty film over them and just don't look right, and if you open them up you see the proof. My storage unit gave me those vibes right away when I opened it. Upon further inspection I found roach eggsacks attached to things like rubbermaid storage container lids out in the open, so I know it's going to be really bad in the nooks and crannies of my belongings. And there's rat feces everywhere, along with insulation and ceiling material.

u/ProfessionalTossAway looked around the rest of the facility and saw it was in a similar state of disrepair. Pieces of cockroach bodies and rat feces were reportedly all over the floors, along with mildew on the building's air ducts. In the end, u/ProfessionalTossAway said they planned to return to the unit with a respirator to see what could be salvaged.

Never leave your belongings to sit idly in a storage unit without checking on them. Reputable facilities protect units against rodents and bugs, but you could still return to find your stuff stolen or damaged from a water leak if you're not regularly checking in. If you move away, move your storage unit belongings to a facility near your new home if possible.

Even if you pay for extra insurance through your storage facility, you may want to get another policy for specialty items or equipment in your unit. That's the advice Reddit user u/Lotsathangs received after describing his harrowing experience with a pipe blowout.

As an audio engineer, u/Lotsathangs had a lot of professional equipment stored away when they moved to a smaller place. After finding a new commercial space to set it all up in, the Redditor went back to their storage unit to find it covered in an inch of water. Around $15,000 of amplifiers, speakers, guitars, and other equipment were reportedly ruined, and water dripped from the sagging ceiling.

Infuriatingly, u/Lotsathangs' stuff had been moved onto pallets, even though they had it placed it all on the floor. Someone noticed the leak, entered the unit, and lifted the equipment a few inches off the floor instead of removing it and alerting u/Lotsathangs to the problem. The Redditor continues:

I went into the office, furious (I kept it together though and remained professional!) and spoke to the manager. He said they had some pipes burst, but that the stuff should be fine because he had "his guys" move it onto pallets. I told him everything was ruined. He said I was stuck out of luck. I told him I specifically chose his facility despite their above average monthly rate (true) because they presented themselves as being highly secure, climate controlled, and safe.

I produced the rental agreement and pointed out that the company claimed to reimburse any renters for loss/damage the company was determined to be at fault for. He pointed out that one of the exceptions was damage that took place "due to an act of God" (yes, it said this in the rental agreement) such as a flood, tornado, power outage, etc.

After some more arguing I told him I would get my attorney involved, and he essentially dared me to, then laughed in my face.

Most of the replies to u/Lotsathangs' thread suggested a pipe bursting isn't an "act of god" and they should contact their lawyer, but one reply offered different advice: next time, get a separate insurance policy. If you rely on the stuff you're storing to earn money, you should properly insure it via another policy. The added peace of mind will be well worth the policy's price if tens of thousands of dollars are at stake.

You don't have to be a professional to get additional insurance on your stuff. Storage unit insurance policies can be a pain, so check to see if your renters' or homeowners' insurance covers damaged goods in storage. For professional equipment, invest in an additional policy that covers items for your specific industry.

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