6 Signs someone is living in a storage unit

There is a rising trend of low-income people living in storage units due to escalating housing costs and increasing homelessness. Unfortunately, these storage units are not meant for living and can pose health and safety risks, such as unsanitary conditions due to the lack of water and potential entrapment inside the unit. So, if you own one of these properties, you need to know the signs someone is living in a storage unit.

People living in storage units can create a less desirable environment for other tenants. Legal repercussions are also a potential risk, particularly if children are involved in such circumstances. If you are a storage facility owner or manager, you need to be aware of indicators suggesting someone might be living in a unit. You also need to know how to manage such situations and prevent it from happening again.


Signs someone is living in a storage unit

Here are the top signs someone is living in a storage unit:

1. Regular tenant visits

If your tenant is frequently seen at the facility but isn’t actively moving items in or out of their storage unit, this could suggest they’re using the unit as a living space.


2. Increase in your electricity bills

Somehow, utilities have gone up but you have someone occupying your storage unit with items. What if it’s more than that and the person is sleeping there at night? Then this is a sign that your tenant is living in the storage unit without getting caught. Some tenants may exploit electrical outlets in storage units to run appliances such as heaters or microwaves. If you notice a substantial increase in your power bill, a tenant might be living in their unit.

Another key indicator would be if your tenant is showing interest in the availability of electrical outlets in the storage unit. Nevertheless, some genuine renters may need it for their gaming console, so they will explain that they’d be coming for gaming. Unless this is the case and you’re aware, your renter could be intending to use appliances, such as heaters or microwave ovens.

3. Depletion of bathroom supplies

Rapid use of toiletries, like toilet paper, soap, and paper towels, especially in the facility’s restroom, are signs someone is living in a storage unit. That’s because the tenant is using these amenities regularly while living in a unit.

4. Excess trash

Some tenants may not be careful enough to reduce the trash they generate within the storage facility. So, if you notice an increase in household trash like cigarette butts, beverage bottles, food wrappers, booze bottles, etc., in your waste bins and dumpsters, it could also hint that someone is living in one of the units. As a property manager or landlord, you must be vigilant, inspect, and try to identify this unusual trash racking up in the facility.


5. Increased use of consumables

Keep an eye on the consumption of items like toilet paper, paper towels, and soap. If these items are being used excessively, someone is using your storage unit as an apartment. To maintain control over restroom access, consider keeping them locked and regulating key distribution. But in most cases, tenants squatting in the storage units use nearby gym toilets and bathrooms.

6. Tenant’s preference for secluded units

If a tenant shows a preference for renting a unit located at the end of a building or one that’s not easily visible from the office, this might be a cause for concern. It is one of the signs someone is living in a storage unit because they are looking to stay out of sight. Traditionally, when someone is living in a storage unit illegally, they occupy it ghostly.

These are common telltale signs to look out for. If you identify a tenant living in a storage unit take action immediately. Not only is it illegal in states, including Texas,¹ Virginia,² South Carolina,³ etc., for someone to live in a storage unit, but it also poses safety risks to you, the tenant, and your other tenants.

How to evict someone living in a storage unit

You want to respond quickly when find out that a tenant is illegally residing in a storage unit. Follow these measures to evict someone living in a storage unit:

  1. Formally cease the contract with the facility. This should be done in written form, both placed on the unit’s door and sent to the renter’s registered postal address, stating that the individual is breaching the rental contract.
  2. Understand that this person is no longer a tenant but someone infringing on the property. Storage units are not legal living quarters. However, avoid actions that might put you in trouble. Despite the residence in the unit, proper eviction procedures should still be followed in most jurisdictions to evict someone living in a storage unit.
  3. Depending on local laws, the renter might not be able to take legal action against you for unlawful eviction as they are not officially tenants. Moreover, living in your storage unit is already illegal enough, so they wouldn’t want to drag the case to court.
  4. Consider warning them about the possibility of arrest due to the lack of an occupancy permit. If the person still refuses to vacate, call the police about the presence of a trespasser on your property.
  5. Request law enforcement officers to escort the person off the property, following which you should change the locks on the storage unit. Their attempt to live in the unit breaches the contract. Maintain comprehensive documentation because when the police examine the case, you’ll be required to present gate log entries, surveillance footage, keypad operations, and other detailed records.
  6. In a situation where this warning is ignored and the local government turns a blind eye, consider the termination of the lease option with a 7-day notice. They may choose to dispute this in court, where you will have the opportunity to present the contract to the judge and indicate the absence of an occupancy permit.
  7. Strengthen your security measures after eviction because the tenant might attempt to re-enter their unit. If necessary, hire a night guard on the property for a couple of months.

How to prevent tenants living in storage unit

You want to prevent having to look for signs someone is living in a storage unit in the first place. Consider doing the following to discourage this habit:

1. Ensure rigorous security measures

Regularly inspect your storage units, conduct property patrols, and compare security footage with your gate log.

2. Train your managers to detect unusual behavior

Educate your managers to detect signs that indicate a tenant might be living in a storage unit.

3. Enforce strict lease terms

State in your lease agreement that residing in the unit is absolutely prohibited. Discuss this provision with each tenant and inform them of the repercussions of violating it.

Ultimately, consider professional services for self-storage property management to help prevent your tenants from eventually turning your units into an apartment. They typically have the skills and know-how to identify and prevent such illegal behaviors around your property.

Read also: ways to prove illegal subletting


  1. Chapter 59. Self-service Storage Facility Liens. Texas
  2. Virginia Self-Service Storage Act. Virginia Law
  3. Title 39 – Trade and Commerce. South Carolina Legislature

Read also: can someone rent with eviction?

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