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If you found yourself suddenly without a home, where would you go? Maybe you’re facing some tough financial times coupled with housing unavailability. Perhaps you live in an area that just experienced a massive natural disaster. Or maybe you flat out just need a temporary place to crash while you figure some stuff out. (Because let’s face it: Life has a way of throwing some real curve balls at us.) Some people might be lucky enough to be able to crash with family or friends temporarily. But others might turn to living in the storage unit where they keep their belongings.
While a storage unit might seem like a viable option, we’re here to let you know that it’s not sustainable or safe. In this article, we’ll discuss the legalities surrounding the idea of living out of a storage unit. We’ll also refer you to helpful resources if you or someone you love is at risk or experiencing homelessness.
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 in order to comply with the law and most insurance policies. To put it plainly, living in a storage unit is illegal. No matter what you’re currently experiencing, you should not attempt to turn your storage unit into a makeshift home.
Why aren’t you allowed to live in a storage unit?
There are good reasons why this restriction is in place. For starters, living in a storage unit is incredibly unsafe. In 2019, a man was found dead inside a storage unit when the facility caught on fire. Another unfortunate instance occurred when police had to vacate multiple residents from a storage facility due to health concerns the year prior. In the wake of both events, the local authorities further stressed that living in an area not zoned for residential use is illegal.
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 during a period of time when he was experiencing homelessness. The video is both problematic and misleading for a number of reasons. Namely, 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, people with access to adequate shelter don’t willingly choose to live in these facilities. It is a more frequent occurrence among people who are experiencing homelessness. Even then, finding someone living in a storage unit isn’t 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’s policies, in particular, ensure that management at each location proactively monitors our facilities.
Why is living in a storage unit 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 shifts to ensure all doors are closed and locked. This task is performed for the safety of renters’ belongings. However, 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 something as tragic as 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 isolated 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, at least, sit inside it quietly and discreetly. (As a reminder: 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 attempting to use stoves or grills without proper ventilation. Unfortunately, people surreptitiously living in a storage unit are commonly to blame for fires breaking out.
5. You will get caught.
The viral YouTube video mentioned 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 other 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. Additionally, you could also 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, unfortunately, exists in many forms, and an unknown percentage of these people turn to living in a storage unit as a solution. We want to stress that this decision is illegal and unsafe.
Can you use a storage unit as an office?
For small business owners and entrepreneurs looking for more storage space for their businesses, working out of a storage unit can be a viable option. But it depends on your intentions for the space and the capacity at which you use it. Check out our full article Working Out of a Storage Unit: Do’s and Don’ts for Business Owners for more information.
Where to Get Help if You Are Experiencing Homelessness
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 in this situation and usually have local resources for food banks and shelters they can refer you to. There is also no shame in asking for help— storage facility managers can act as a liaison and help you get back on your feet and sent to a safe place.
Additional Resources for People Experiencing Homelessness
- US Department of Health and Human Services – Homelessness Resources and Programs
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – Homelessness Programs and Resources
- National Alliance to End Homelessness – How to Get Help if You Are Experiencing Homelessness
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.
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 and June 15th, 2023.