You can reduce your self-storage costs if you share your unit and split the rent, but be sure to find a compatible storage roommate.
Sharing a storage unit is very much like sharing an apartment, said Diane Gibson, president of Cox Armored Mini Storage Management, which operates self-storage facilities in Arizona. If you rent a unit with someone who is not responsible, your possessions will not be secure.
“I have had a couple of instances where a boyfriend and girlfriend come in,” Gibson recalled. “Everything is great, then all of a sudden they hate each other. One wants to change the contract and take everything in the unit. It’s just a mess.”
To avoid involvement in such arguments, Gibson no longer allows more than one person’s name on a rental agreement. She and her managers deal only with the person who signs the contract.
“We have to be careful not to get not get involved in personal domestic disputes,” she said.
Most facilities around the country follow the same practice, said self-storage consultant Sue Haviland, a partner at Self Storage 101.
Sharing the keys
When you sign a rental agreement, typically you’ll be free to share the storage space with whomever you choose, along with the key to your lock and the facility’s security codes, Haviland said. However, you alone will be legally responsible for paying the monthly rent. If your roommate fails to pay you for his or her share, you still will be obligated.
Eric Tyson, an economist and the author of “Let’s Get Real About Money,” said that you often can avoid misunderstandings if you and your self-storage roommate sit down and establish clear ground rules before you start shopping for a unit.
“From the get-go, you want to be careful,” Tyson said.
Psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, author of “A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness,” said you shouldn’t take anything for granted when setting up your rules for joint occupancy.
“Even though you won’t be living with them, they will have access to your stuff,” she said. “What you think is obvious, like not borrowing your things, may not be obvious to another person.”
Work out a payment plan and decide which of you will sign the lease. If you have doubts about your friend’s ability to make monthly payments, you may be able to arrange to jointly pay your rent in advance.
Haviland said it’s also important to create a plan for dividing the space inside your unit. If one of you will take up more than half the space, decide whether that person will pay a greater share of the monthly rent. This may not be a comfortable conversation, but it’s better to have it before disputes arise.
If you want to control what happens in your storage unit, Tyson said, the best thing to do is put your own name on the rental agreement. If your rental partner signs the document and becomes the storage facility’s point of contact, you might not learn that he or she has forgotten to pay the rent until you’ve fallen months behind and your belongings are being auctioned.
Know when to walk away
If you and your friend can’t work out an amicable agreement for sharing the unit or you simply don’t feel comfortable with the arrangement, trust your instincts. Walk away from the deal and find another person to share your self-storage space.
Haviland said it’s common for people to share storage units. Some facilities that are near universities and colleges do a brisk summer business by renting units to students who live out of state.
Rather than pack up their dormitory belongings and take them on a long-distance journey back home each summer, students find a self-storage unit near campus and share it with several friends, she said.
It’s common for self-storage facilities to take out ads in college newspapers offering student rental specials, Haviland said. They may pass out flyers or send moving trucks to the college campus to help students take their belongings to storage facilities.