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Is It Legal to Live in A Storage Unit?

is it legal to live in a storage unit
For one reason or another, a person might consider moving into a storage unit and using it as a shelter. This is common for people who suddenly find themselves in financial hardship. While using a storage unit as a temporary home might sound viable, is it legal to live in a store unit? Is it safe? Read on to know more.

The Quick Answer

The quick answer is this: it’s illegal to live in a storage unit. There are regulations against this practice, and it’s not safe for anyone. Let’s dig into the reasons below.

Living in a Storage Unit is Illegal

Both local and federal laws prohibit any individual from living in a storage unit. In fact, these laws mandate any storage facility owner to evict anyone trying to live in their units. On top of that, you’ll violate your contract. Storage facility owners often include a clause in the contract that forbids you from living in the unit.

These days, storage facility owners also invest in security and surveillance cameras in and around the facilities. As a result, the likelihood of getting caught is astronomical. And if you get caught, you’ll face criminal charges or civil penalties.

Why Living in a Storage Unit is Unsafe

Apart from being illegal, living in a storage unit is also highly unsafe for the following reasons:

Doors Lock from the Outside

Most storage units have roll-up doors that lock from the outside. The management staff also does multiple walkthroughs throughout their shift to ensure that all storage unit doors are locked and closed.

Such a practice is there to ensure the safety of the unit owners’ belongings. However, if you live inside a storage unit, you could get locked inside for an indefinite period. This can be fatal if there are accidents such as fire or earthquakes in your location, in which case you can’t get away since you’re locked.

Fire Hazards

Speaking of accidents, fire hazards aren’t rare in storage units. Using electricity inside a unit dramatically increases the risk of fire. Many people who try to live in storage units often use stoves and grills without proper ventilation, resulting in fires breaking out.

Building Codes

Building codes for regular houses and buildings are extremely different from those of storage units. Houses require protections that keep people safe from fire and other hazards. They also have different entry and exit points people can use in emergencies.

In other words, regular houses and commercial buildings follow more rules for safety reasons. Storage units aren’t made to be lived in, so building codes for them aren’t as strict.

Lack of Heat and Air Conditioning

Storage units don’t have proper heat and air conditioning. While climate-controlled units are available in the market, those are found in higher-end facilities (where getting in unnoticed is also likely to be extremely difficult).

Moreover, even with climate-controlled facilities, the units are often kept at around 55 degrees in winter to cut down on the facilities’ electric bills while still preserving items. Inside units without climate-control features, the temperatures can easily fall below freezing or rise to the 100s — which can be extremely dangerous to humans.

Lack of Water

Running and drinkable water is a necessity. Storage units don’t have them. Without water, you can’t carry out your basic hygiene routines, resulting in possible health problems.

Without baths and showers, you can contract illnesses that can be fatal or have long-term effects.

Lack of Natural Light

While not a popular fact, humans need natural light to avoid depression. Storage units are essentially concrete boxes with no windows, which means there’s a lack of natural light. This can be detrimental to anyone’s mental health.

There Are Better Alternatives

Homelessness is a huge problem in many countries. If you’re facing this, living in a storage unit may seem like a last resort. However, there are better alternatives.

You can communicate with the storage facility management. Many of these facilities have dealt with live-in tenants before, and they’re connected to resources that can help you, such as a food bank, a shelter, or a charity for those on the brink of homelessness. These include, SAMHSA, and homeless shelter directories.

If You’re A Storage Facility Owner

On the other end of the spectrum, storage facility owners are liable for anything people do while on their property. If you’re a facility owner, there are many things you can try to deter people from living in your storage units:

Have a Clear Rental Contract

Your contract should be crystal clear about the terms of using the storage unit — living in the storage unit is strictly forbidden. Emphasize the consequences of violating this term and ask the renter to sign the caveat so they’re fully aware of the clause.

Install a CCTV Around the Facility

CCTVs and other surveillance devices are useful when monitoring the entirety of your facility around the clock. Some owners only install cameras at the perimeter of their property, but this gives them a blind spot inside the facility.

Check the Facility Regularly

Conduct regular checks inside the premises. This will help you pick up on smaller things that the cameras miss, such as suspicious wirings. You should also train your staff to keep an eye out for such things.

Others compare the number of times their entrance gate codes are entered versus the number of times the exit codes are used. If the numbers aren’t even, then a tenant is likely still inside the property.

Other telltale signs include footprints in the snow, a spike in electricity consumption, strange noises, and a low amount of supplies.

Keep Homeless Charities and Local Shelters Within Reach

Helpful resources such as leaflets from local shelters and homeless charities can help a person in need. This will help you point a person trying to live in a storage unit in the right direction. It also shows that you as a business owner aren’t insensitive to the circumstances of some of your customers. After all, you’re liable for everything that happens to your tenants while they’re on your property.

If you’re interested in more housing law articles, check out our section on housing law on our site!

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