living in a storage unit

Can you live in a storage unit?

People who are down on their luck may be tempted to make a storage unit their temporary home. After all, it’s cheaper than a hotel or apartment.

Some people do try to get away with it, as a Google search any time of the year will reveal. But in most cases, these living arrangements result in more trouble than they’re worth. For instance, a woman in Fargo, ND, resorted to living in a storage unit in early 2015 after being evicted from her home. She wound up being trapped in the unit after she was unable to unlock the door and was treated for mild hypothermia.

Laws and contracts

While people like the woman in Fargo may be desperate to put a roof over their heads, camping out in a storage unit isn’t the way to go, experts say. Generally, state laws prohibit using a storage unit as a residence. Furthermore, rental contracts typically forbid living in a storage unit.

“All in all, beyond being illegal and an insurance risk the operator cannot take, it is not safe to live in a self-storage unit, no matter for how brief a time,” said Jeffrey Greenberger, a self-storage attorney in Cincinnati, OH.

Becky Blanton

Becky Blanton spent several months living in a storage unit.

Greenberger added: “I know sometimes it is glorified in blogs, but the reality is, you are playing Russian roulette with your life. For this reason, I know of no operator who ‘looks the other way.’ They all try vigorously to remove squatters when they find them.”

Greenberger points out that self-storage facilities aren’t built to the same standards as dwellings are. For example, self-storage units normally lack ventilation, heating, air conditioning, plumbing, electricity, smoke detectors and fire sprinklers.

“A building built for someone to live in has a lot more life-safety features then a storage facility building,” Greenberger said.

Speaking from experience

In 2006, Becky Blanton spent four months living in a storage unit in Colorado. She said she slept in her storage unit during the day and held down a job at night. “No one thought anything of it,” Blanton said.

Today, however, Blanton advises against it. If a facility owner or manager catches you living in a storage unit, you could be given a verbal warning, be kicked out, or be arrested and prosecuted, she said.

“As long as the owner is fairly decent and compassionate, and you’re not drugging and drinking or destroying property, I think most owners will give you a warning or terminate your contract,” Blanton said.

Rather than living in a storage unit, Blanton recommends getting a rent-to-own shed (costing $50 to $150 a month) and setting it up on private property. Another alternative suggested by Blanton: Buy a “junker” car that’s still drivable, park it somewhere safe and live out of it.

“I’d always avoid living in a storage unit for many reasons, primarily for the legal risks you take,” Blanton said. “What many self-storage managers don’t realize is people who do this are at the end of their rope and their options.”

Categories Storage