Cutting the Padlock

News & Strategies for Storage Auctions Success

Posted on by Matt Nannis


uncertaintyAt Storage Unit Auction List, we hear the same worry and/or complaint from storage auction hunters and resellers. They often wonder what they should do regarding previous tenants and returning personal paperwork and mementos to these buyers.

From critics of the storage unit auction industry, we often hear complaints about the basics of the business. They wonder, rather vocally, how others can make a profit from the misfortune of others. From others who are considering getting into the industry, we often hear that they are hesitant to get started for the same reason. They worry about having to come face to face with the previous tenant and any ensuing altercations that might arise as a result of winning the storage unit contents.

The reality of the business is that self storage facilities are required to complete a thorough lien process according to their state laws. These lien processes do vary by state, but in most instances, they require the facility to take several steps and make contact with the tenant many times over, before finally being forced to cut the lock from the storage unit.

Facility staff are required to contact the tenant by phone, by mail, and through public notices for several months before they must recoup their losses by locking the tenant out of the unit and holding a storage auction.

Tenants have multiple opportunities to pay their fees and/or clean out their units before they reach the storage auction stage. Many tenants simply choose to abandon their units rather than paying late fees. In some instances, a tenant doesn't want to deal with the hassle of cleaning out a unit and have no attachment to the items inside. In these instances, they may ask to remove the bits of mementos and personal paperwork that they want to hold on to, and simply surrender the unit to the facility. Many times, the tenant simply moves without a thought to the unit. The facility can then no longer contact them, but they do publish a series of public notices in local newspapers and comparable online locations.

shaking hands

While in many instances the storage unit has been abandoned, in other instances, there might be a tenant willing to pay their late fees or buy back their items, or someone who simply wants to collect their photos and personal paperwork. As a storage auction hunter, how should you handle being approached by the tenant on the day of the storage auction, or in subsequent days?

It is always best to kill them with kindness. Lost In Storage is a great resource that allows you to send back personal affects without having to come face to face with a previous tenant and wind up in an awkward situation. This service allows both you and tenants to post lost and found items from within storage units and to send those contents to previous tenants with anonymity.

In some instances, a tenant may show up at the self storage facility on the day of the auction or in the days following the auction and want to know who purchased their units. In most instances, a facility will not give out your information to a previous tenant, but what if they do, or what if the facility calls you and asks if you're willing to sell back the items to the previous tenant?

There is no hard and fast rule in the business and it all depends on what you're comfortable with. If the tenant or facility calls you with this type of proposition, don't say no right away. If the tenant is reasonable and willing to buy back some of their items, you can make a deal with them and arrange to meet them to complete the transaction. In a lot of cases, they may only care about one or two large ticket items and this allows you to begin to make a profit, while still being fair to the previous tenant and allowing them the opportunity to get their items back. The tenant would have been required to pay fees to the facility prior to the auction, so they may be more than willing to pay you for the items instead.

Posted on by Matt Nannis | Posted in Storage Auction Tips, Updates | Tagged , ,


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About Matt Nannis

Matt is the content provider at StorageUnitAuctionList.com. He's going to keep you all up to date and informed!

  • Norm

    Most times I have come across personal items (paperwork, tax returns, letters) and leave them in the unit for the facility to deal with it. As for old tenants, if they want something, they will pay as I am not there to give what I bought back to them just because it was there great grandmothers. I personal heard of people calling lawyers on the buyers to get some of there items back. Heard of one case, lawyer called, threatened legal action if they didn’t do what they wanted. Turns out the buyer is once removed from the issue as ownership goes from the old owner to the storage company to the buyer. For a legal matter to go forward the lawyer would have to sue the storage unit, then the storage unit would have to go after the buyer to recover the items. In this case the storage company stepped in and told the buyer to agree and give back the items or they wouldn’t be welcome at there auctions. You don’t see the buyer any more at there auctions but with the way the prices have been going up, he has found other things to do.

    Had one unit, it had a large picture of the great grandparents & family plus a photo album with WWII pictures, etc, etc. Talked to the storage manager and they had tried to contact the person for months. Turned out the old owner had paid for the year but died a month after they paid. Children came down, emptied out the house and went back up north. A year later the family didn’t even know the storage unit existed. As I do family genealogy I kept the family stuff and posted to a popular genealogy website what I had. It took a bit over a month and a family member contacted me. I sent them a few pictures of what I had and they requested them. Packaged them up, sent them off. They paid me plus a few dollars as the family history is our roots .

  • David Carlon

    9 out of 10 times this is not a good idea.You will hear the same excuses that the tenant used when talking with the storage unit manager.I have tried many times and they always have some excuse why they cant pay you.I always leave the photos,tax returns and other personal papers in the unit,but it is better to just move on and avoid the hassle of dealing with previous tenants,Just my honest opinion.

  • Charles The First

    I do genealogy research as well so I am careful to leave photos and papers with the facility. I have a very large lot of photos in my most recent unit. All of which I am leaving with the manager of that unit.