Fact or Fiction: Debunking Storage Unit Auction Myths

Maddy Osman
indoor storage
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Popular reality television shows have brought an obscure part of the self storage industry into the limelight: storage unit auctions. 

Being in the storage unit business for over ten years, these auctions are our least favorite part of the business we are in.  However, the public might not find them as entertaining without the added drama of show business.

We’re on a mission to reveal the truth about storage unit auctions. 

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • What a storage unit auction is

  • Popular myths about storage auctions

  • How to avoid having your self storage unit auctioned off

What Is a Storage Unit Auction?

A storage unit auction takes place when a storage tenant stops paying rent. After a certain period without payment, the tenant’s belongings may be auctioned to the highest bidder to pay back rent owed. 

It also clears out the contents of the self storage space so that the landlord may re-rent the unit. 

7 Public Storage Auction Myths

Reality shows like Storage Wars have dramatized storage unit auctions and spread misinformation about them. 

Here, we’ll debunk seven common myths inspired by television shows about public storage auctions.

1. Storage Facilities Don’t Make an Effort to Contact Tenants 

Truth: Storage unit facilities are required per each state’s lien laws to make several attempts to contact tenants including sending notices via certified mail as well as advertising the auction.  Storage companies want to give every opportunity to tenants to pay their missed rent and reclaim their items.  Selling the items is truly a last resort. Unfortunately, sometimes a renter’s contact information has changed and the storage facility is unable to reach them.

The tenant and the self storage facility have a contract in place that sets the terms for late or missing payments. If the facility doesn’t receive rent within a certain time, they notify the renter about their intent to auction off the contents of the storage shed. 

2. You Can Bid on Individual Items in a Public Storage Auction

Truth: Storage auctions are unlike traditional auctions. At a traditional auction, items are highlighted individually and sold separately. However, at a storage unit auction, the entire contents of the storage shed are sold together to the highest bidder.  While on TV there is always a very valuable collectors item hidden in the unit, in real self storage auctions that just is not the case.

3. You Know Exactly What You’re Bidding On


Truth: As a bidder, you have the chance to check out the storage units being auctioned, but you can only view them from the front entrance. Unfortunately, you aren’t allowed to enter the unit or touch any of the items. 

While you have some idea what you’re bidding on at a storage auction, you never know exactly what’s inside until after you win. 

4. After the Auction Is Over, the Unit Clearing Process Is Long and Slow

Truth: The highest bidder usually has up to two days to clear the entire unit. This process must be quick because self storage facilities need to make space for new tenants.

Auction winners who don’t clear out their units in time might be responsible for paying rent on the storage unit..

5. You Have to Be on Site to Participate in a Storage Unit Auction

Truth: Storage auctions are also held over the internet. While you can bid online, you should still be within driving distance of the self storage facility because you’ll have only two or three days to clear the unit if you win. 

Online auction sites like Storage TreasuresBid13Self Storage AuctionsiBid4Storage and LockerFox share photos of what can be seen from the entrance of the public storage units. Sometimes these websites also highlight prominent items that appear to be in the unit. 

The advantage of participating in an online storage unit auction is that you can take part in multiple auctions at once and search the web for the value of content in real-time.

6. The Highest Bidder Keeps All of the Contents of the Storage Unit

Truth: The auction winner is the legal owner of the items in the extra space storage unit except for personal legal documents (like passports and legal records) and mementos (like photographs).

If you find these items after clearing out a storage unit, bring them to the facility’s office. They’ll hold onto them for seven years or until the previous owner returns to claim them.

7. This is a Profit Center and the Storage Facility Keeps All of the Proceeds from the Auction

Truth: The self storage facility keeps just enough money to cover the tenant’s unpaid rent balance and pays the auction costs. The rest of the proceeds from the auction get sent to the tenant if their current contact information is on file.

Looking for storage near me? Find your closest Bargain Storage facility.

How to Avoid Having Your Things End up in a Self Storage Unit Auction

While it can be fun to watch other people’s belongings being dramatically auctioned away on television, you probably don’t want it to happen to you. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid losing your things in a public storage unit auction.

Read Your Contract Carefully

Take the time to thoroughly read your storage unit lease agreement before signing it. The contract will explain when the storage facility has the right to seize possession of your items, and how many attempts to contact you they must make before they can auction off your belongings.

Pay Your Rent on Time

Don’t forget to pay the rent on your storage unit. Take advantage of automatic payments to ensure your rental fee is never late.

Keep Your Contact Information up to Date

If you move or change your phone number, get in touch with your cube storage facility to update your contact information. This way they’ll know where to send your warning notices in case you accidentally miss a payment.

Don’t Mistake Storage Facility Notices for Spam

If you have a spam filter on your emails or decline calls from unknown numbers, you might miss your storage facility’s attempts to reach you. Avoid missing important notices by adding your storage facility’s phone number and email address to your contacts.

Final Thoughts: Debunking Storage Unit Auction Myths

Unlike what television shows may suggest, storage unit auctions are done in a quick and civilized manner. It’s easy to keep your valuables off the storage unit auction circuit, and associated reality shows. 

Keep your belongings safe from a storage unit auction by choosing a storage facility, like Bargain Storage, that offers automatic payments and online record keeping. 

Find Bargain Storage units near me.

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