Spring is around the corner, and many of us experience “spring cleaning fever!” If you are feeling the itch to organize but have too much stuff to fit into your home, you’re not alone. About 10% of American households are seeking clutter-relief by renting a storage unit. However, if your stuff matters to you, packing it up and moving it is only part of the solution: “If an item is valuable enough that you are willing to pay for storing it, the item should be financially protected with the proper amount and type of insurance,” said Loretta Worters, vice president for the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)
To protect yourself (and your stuff), take these steps before you sign the storage contract and start moving your boxes:
1. Choose a Quality Facility
Select your facility not only based on convenience, but on safety! Drive further for a safer neighborhood. A fully fenced property with restricted access reflects the minimum safety features your unit should offer. 24-hour video-surveillance, coded security pads (for the building AND your floor) and strategically placed cameras throughout the building (not just at the entrance) are important safety measures. A little time invested in making calls and interviewing managers can tell you a lot about a facility.
2. Is it clean? Is it climate-controlled? Is it dry?
A well-maintained facility will not only be clean, but will also be regularly monitored for rodents and bugs. Don’t hesitate to ask to see the contract with a pest control company to verify that the storage facility is routinely inspected.
Can you control the temperature in your unit or is it centrally managed? Depending on what you’re planning to store, it may be worth the investment to have your own thermostat in your unit.
Make sure that water (either from above or from rising groundwater due to weather) cannot enter your storage unit.
3. Got Insurance?
Educate yourself about the storage facility’s insurance policy: What is their policy in case of a fire, theft or other loss? Read the fine print and don’t hesitate to ask questions such as ‘What are the coverage limits per tenant?’ or ‘Is there an exclusion or cap for high-value items that are being stored in the unit?’
It is wise to give your insurance agent a call to find out what your own homeowners or renters insurance policy might cover. Some home/ renters insurance policies cover personal property off-premise, away from the insured home. Other policies cover personal property only up to 10% of the total insured value when it’s off the insured premises.
Keep in mind that your personal insurance only extends for “covered perils” – that means losses that would be covered if they happened at your home. Covered perils usually include theft, fire, windstorms and other disasters listed in your contract.
Damage or losses caused by flooding, earthquake, mold or mildew, vermin or lack of maintenance are NOT covered on a standard home or renters policy in your home or off-premise. You may need to purchase additional coverage for adequate protection.
Educate yourself whether your insurance policy offers protection for “actual cash value” or “replacement cost.” An actual cash value policy will only provide coverage for the depreciated value of your property. A replacement cost policy will pay to replace the item at the time of loss. Replacement cost policies tend to be slightly more expensive but provide a better value in the long run.
What if you don’t have homeowners or renters insurance? Many self-storage facilities offer insurance protection for your stored contents. These policies, however, tend to be far less broad than a homeowners or renters insurance policy and offer less value for your insurance dollar. Again, read the fine print, coverage limits, and policy exclusions.
Confused? No worries – this is what we are here for. An independent insurance agent can assist you with adequate coverage for your personal possessions at home and in a storage unit.
4. Document, document, document
One of the best ways to protect your personal property is to create an inventory. This can be as easy as snapping pictures! (Our new McClain Insurance App can help with that! It allows you to take pictures, then create and share reports that can be as detailed as you wish. Click here for more information!)
In your home, go from room to room and take pictures of your furniture, art and electronics. Don’t forget the content of drawers, cabinets and closets.
For your storage unit, document your personal property as you pack it. It also might be helpful to snap a few pictures of the actual unit with your items in it.