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If you found yourself suddenly without a home due to financial hardship or natural disaster, where would you go? For some, that could mean living with family or friends. For others, that could be living in a storage unit where they keep their belongings. While a storage unit might seem like a viable option, it’s not sustainable or safe.
Can You Live in a Storage Unit?
Living in a storage unit is prohibited by various local and federal housing laws. Storage facilities must evict any person they find living on the premises to comply with the law and most insurance policies.
There are good reasons why this restriction is in place. For starters, living in a storage unit is unsafe. In 2019, a man was found dead inside a storage unit when the facility caught on fire.
In another instance, police had to vacate multiple residents from a storage facility due to health concerns. The authorities further stressed that it’s illegal to live in an area not zoned for residential use.
Is it Common for People to Live in a Storage Unit?
A viral Youtube video sparked public interest when 007craft found himself living in a storage unit after becoming homeless. The video is both problematic and misleading, and it makes living in a storage unit seem glamorous and a product of ingenuity. We assure you it is neither.
Although storage units are significantly less expensive than renting an apartment, most people choose not to live here. People who are desperate and homeless are the ones who try to live in storage units, at least temporarily. People living onsite is not necessarily common, but it does happen when it seems like there are no other options.
You’ll be less likely to find people living in a storage unit at well-maintained facilities with security cameras and locked gates. Life Storage policies ensure that management at each of our locations are proactive in monitoring our facilities.
Where to Get Help
If you know someone who doesn’t know where to go, we advise anyone going through tough times to approach the storage facility staff. They are well-versed with this situation and usually have local resources for food banks and shelters. They can act as a liaison and help you get back on your feet and sent to a safe place.
The facility can also offer a storage unit for your current belongings to keep them for you while you’re getting back on your feet. However, under no circumstances should management allow you to stay on the premises. Doing so is illegal.
Why is it So Unsafe?
Here are just a few of the many reasons why living in a storage unit is illegal due to safety concerns.
1. The doors lock from the outside.
Most storage unit doors are garage-style roll-up doors that lock from the outside. Also, in many storage facilities, management is tasked with doing multiple walkthroughs throughout their shift to ensure all the doors are closed and locked. This task is performed for the safety of renters’ belongings, but if you’re living inside a unit, there’s a chance you could get locked inside. At best, this could mean you feel slightly claustrophobic for the night. At worst, this could result in fatalities.
2. There are no windows or natural light.
Natural light is an essential component of psychological well-being. People living in a storage unit could find themselves depressed, lethargic, and claustrophobic due to their living conditions. This lack of space and light can be especially detrimental to children.
3. Storage units don’t have running water.
If you opt to live in a storage unit, you’ll have to spend most of your day outside the unit or sit inside it quietly and discreetly since doing so is illegal. Either way, you’ll be limited on options for bathing and using the bathroom. Personal hygiene suffers, and health issues can result without access to fresh, running water.
4. Cooking inside a unit is a fire hazard.
There are a variety of activities that could cause a fire inside a storage unit. One of the most probable is people attempting to use stoves or grills without proper ventilation. Unfortunately, people living in a storage unit are commonly to blame for fires breaking out.
5. You will get caught.
The viral Youtube video above talks about the need to be invisible to be able to live in a storage unit. Unfortunately, this is a very difficult reality with the increase in technology. Most storage facilities are well equipped with cameras and security protocols, so it’s unlikely a person will get away with hiding out in a storage unit for long. Once caught, you can face civil charges and could lose access to your unit and your belongings.
Under no circumstances should you ever live in a storage unit. It’s difficult to gauge the magnitude of this problem, and it varies from area to area. Homelessness comes in many forms, and an unknown percentage of these people try to live in storage units. At Life Storage, we want to stress that this decision is illegal and unsafe.
Here are some other articles that explain some common storage unit dos and don’ts’:
Editor’s Note: Originally published August 18, 2019; updated March 26, 2021.