Sometimes you’re going to find strange things in storage units that you’re not going to know what to do with. More often, you’ll also find very sensitive or personal documents that belonged to the last tenant. What do you do with all of this stuff?
Many units you win at storage auctions will contain family photos and other memories that seem to be lost forever once the auction has ended. Some storage facilities offer a place to drop off pictures, letters, and legal documents of the previous tenant. Lostinstorage.com offers a great online service to connect with the people whose pictures you have found, and there is even an anonymous shipping option. You, as the new owner of the unit, have no legal obligation to return any belongings to the past tenant, but out of common courtesy, if you’re going to dispose of personal documents it would be a good idea to shred them to eliminate the risk of identity theft.
I spoke with an auctioneer in my area, and he told me that he had found a large amount of narcotics in a unit that he won. It is not extremely uncommon to run across illegal drugs in a storage unit in some areas. The best thing to do if you find drugs in a unit that you are clearing out is to call the police, explain the situation, and have them come to you. Don’t touch them, don’t try to transport them or discard them–just leave them. A police officer isn’t likely to believe you if you have a pickup truck full of marijuana that “you found in a storage unit”.
It is not all that uncommon to find a gun in a storage unit. Some of these are collectables, some are for self defense, some are illegal. If weapons are modified, they can be illegal to possess, and should be surrendered to local law enforcement authorities immediately. An example of illegal weapons would be shotguns that have a barrel shorter than that which is required by law (usually 8 inches,) or a weapon that has the firing pin filed down to make it an automatic. Grenades, mines, and other incendiary devises are very rare to find, but if you run across these, you should contact local law enforcement. Do not drive them to the police as this could be a very bad idea. Many states require special licenses or tax stamps to legally possess grenades, mines, or automatic weapons.
If you’re ever in doubt about the legality of something you find in a unit, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The facility owner and local law enforcement are usually very happy to help.