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Are Storage Units Responsible for Water Damage?

Storage units are quite handy for a number of reasons.

You can store your seasonal belongings, like winter or summer clothing and sports equipment, during the offseason, or you can keep most of your stuff there while you’re moving to a new home.

The problem is that none of these storage units is immune from damage. They can get vandalized, flooded, or infested with animals.

Today, we’ll discuss what to do in case of a flood or water damage to your storage unit and who is responsible for a loss. 

Let’s get right into it!

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Common Causes of Water Damage in Storage Units

Leaks Through the Roof

Storage units have metal roofs connected with fasteners. If these fasteners back out, water can seep in through the roof, and hefty water damage can occur during heavy rainfall.

Sprinkler System Malfunctioning

Storage facilities also have sprinkler systems used for suppressing any fires. They are essential components of fire safety systems in these types of facilities, as long as they work well.

These sprinkler systems can be accidentally activated by a non-fire-related cause or have valve or sensor failures that switch them on when they shouldn’t.

And, unfortunately, these instances are not that rare. There are over 600 sprinkler system failures annually, according to NFPA.

Additionally, in colder climates, the water within the sprinkler pipes can freeze. If the pipes burst due to ice expansion, this can lead to water damage.

Clogged Gutters

Clogged gutters prevent proper water drainage, leading to overflow and water potentially seeping into the storage unit. Facilities without adequate eaves or overhangs may be more susceptible to this type of damage.

Also, downspouts that are not properly connected can direct water against the unit rather than away from it.

Improper Drainage

If the ground around the unit has poor drainage or is already saturated from previous rainfall, this can lead to a problem if there’s a lot of rainwater again.

Also, if the aforementioned gutters are clogged, this will further worsen the situation. Saturated soil increases the risk of water seeping into the unit through foundation’s walls. 

Flooding

And then we have floods from natural disasters. 

In January of 2023, Merced storage unit was completely flooded. Similar thing happened in Oakland in 2019. It is possible.

In this case, the water damage may be treated a bit differently when speaking of insurance coverage. We’ll get to that and how to protect your items in just a second.

Who is Responsible for Water Damage in Storage Units?

Here we go, the thing you’ve been waiting for.

Determining responsibility for water damage in storage units often depends on multiple factors, including the terms of the rental agreement, the cause of the water damage, insurance, and applicable local laws.

It’s pretty common for rental agreements to specify the responsibilities of both parties regarding maintenance and potential damages that can occur.

Note that most storage companies will say that the storage unit users are completely responsible for their items. This includes the insurance.

The only time a storage facility company might be held responsible for water damage would be when their negligence or improper maintenance has led to a leak. 

Storage facility owners typically have a responsibility to maintain the structural integrity of the facility itself, including the roof, siding, and other structural elements.

Now, if water damage is a result of a facility-related issue, the owner would likely be held responsible.

So, if this describes your situation, get familiar with the rights and local laws protecting you as a tenant.

Other than that, you’re on your own.

Your storage unit may have been flooded by water brought out by a severe storm or hurricane. There are also instances when something like a busted pipe happens. This can be considered “accidental” water damage (so when it’s not the facility owner’s fault) and something insurance would need to cover.

Insurance Options

Renter's Insurance

Here’s the kicker – most renter’s insurance policies cover storage units, but only theft, vandalism, and weather damage. Not water or mold damage. This is why it’s so important that you’re familiar with what’s exactly included in your policy and properly insure your items.

You’re likely offered additional insurance when you were initially renting out a unit but you may have declined, thinking the renter’s insurance covers water damage.

Well, it doesn’t. Read the contract fully to double-check this is the case.

Storage Unit Insurance

This policy typically covers personal property, including furniture, clothing, electronics, appliances, and other belongings stored in the rented unit.

Now, policies may have exclusions for specific items or perils. For example, high-value items like jewelry or art may require additional coverage, and certain natural disasters may be excluded.

Note that since many policies often have limits on the maximum amount of coverage provided, it’s essential for you to choose coverage amounts that adequately reflect the value of your stored items.

We do not even recommend storing high-value items to begin with. Their value may be priceless.

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As soon as you call the number below, you’ll be connected with a professional restoration company in your area. Free, with no advertising or commitment.

How to Protect Your Items in a Storage Unit

Besides properly insuring your stuff, there are additional things you can do to properly protect items in a storage unit:

  • Waterproof Containers: Pack items in waterproof containers or plastic bins with secure lids. 
  • Elevate Items Off the Floor: Place your items on pallets, shelves, or other raised surfaces to keep them off the floor. This precaution helps minimize the risk of minor flooding.
  • Control Humidity to Prevent Mold: Place desiccant packets or moisture-absorbing products within the storage unit to help control humidity. You may even want to consider getting a dehumidifier. These are useful for preventing mold, which often pops up when there’s a lot of moisture in a given area. There doesn’t have to be a leak or some kind of water damage for mold to grow, it’s just enough for humidity levels to be above 60%. If your storage unit is in a humid climate, consider this option.
  • Choose a Climate-Controlled Unit: Another thing you can do is use a climate-controlled unit to combat humidity changes, especially if you store items sensitive to them, like wood, paper, or electronics.
  • Regularly Check on Your Unit: Once a month is ideal.

Conclusion

That’s all for now! Hopefully, this guide was helpful enough for you to learn about water damage in storage units and who is responsible. 

To reiterate, in most cases, you’re on your own, so make sure to properly insure your items and maintain your unit.

Learn more about water damage:

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