Have you ever wondered if you’re inadvertently breaking the rules at your storage facility? Here’s a list common things you should NOT do in a storage unit.

Living in a storage unit and other prohibited activities

Living in a storage unit seems like a smart way to save money, doesn’t it? Not quite. Self storage is a great way to deal with lots of stuff you don’t have room for or don’t need every day. However, some things are not allowed in a storage unit. For instance, items such as chemicals and live animals top the long list of things you simply cannot put in storage under any circumstances.

It’s not that storage businesses are being stingy with their rules. In fact, most businesses see some regulation at the local, state and federal level, and self storage facilities are no exception. There are many compliance laws about what can’t be stored and what can’t be done.

Find out what’s usually restricted under most self storage rental contracts. And if you’re tempted to break the rules anyway, think twice. There may be some serious consequences to breaking the rules beyond just losing your lease.

Can You Live in a Storage Unit?

Living in a storage unit

So many people wonder if it’s legal to live in a storage unit and how common it is, which makes sense considering how much more affordable climate controlled storage units are versus rent on an apartment. Yes, rent costs are going up, and a storage unit is clean and spacious. However, living in a storage unit is entirely off limits. Under no circumstances does the law permit you to set up residence inside a storage unit. Therefore,  if you find yourself in a hard place financially, consider residing with family or find a shelter before spending the night in your unit.

Another big no-no is kenneling any live animal. If you’re considering saving money by boarding a pet in your unit while you take off for the weekend, think again. You may not place your ant farm, tarantula terrarium, fish tank, or any animal in your storage unit (living or dead–unless properly preserved by a taxidermist). You may be subject to animal cruelty and abuse charges if you choose to ignore this rule.

Other Storage Unit Regulations

In addition, most other regulations revolve around doing business inside a storage unit and what you’re allowed to keep inside. Some of these items are common sense, but in the height of a stressful move, they may slip your mind. Here’s a reminder.

What not to put in a storage unit

Prohibited items you should NOT put in a storage unit:

  • Plants. Plants need light, food, and water. They will die faster in a storage unit than they will at your home or office. Gardeners are allowed to keep pretty much all their supplies inside a storage unit, but they must opt to keep anything that’s alive stored elsewhere.
  • Firearms, munitions, gunpowder, and explosives. Your firearm collection cannot be kept in self storage. Neither are fireworks or other explosives. If you ignore this warning and your storage unit blows up, you could end up celebrating next Independence Day in a federal facility.
  • Food and other perishables. It doesn’t matter if it’s pet food or pâté, stored food will rot, stink and attract vermin, making you very unpopular with your facility management and anybody with a storage unit near yours. This includes boxes or containers that have previously help food, like banana or liquor boxes. They may not look like food, but they sure smell like it.
  • Hazardous materials and waste storage. You’ll need to find somewhere else to keep your excess flammable, explosive or radioactive stuff. If it’s corrosive, chemical, odorous, noxious or toxic, it can’t go in self storage, either. This includes lead paint, asbestos, urea formaldehyde, polychlorinated biphenyl, petroleum, petroleum products and constituents, methane, medical waste, toxic substances and related materials as defined in several federal acts and state statutes with long names and numbers.
  • Hot stuff. Stolen goods of any kind can’t be kept in self storage.
  • Cash. Keep in mind that insurance policies do not cover cash. Therefore, all that spare money and loot you have scattered around the house will be much safer in a safe deposit box at your bank.

Different storage facilities may have additional lists of prohibited items and activity, but this list covers the basics. When in doubt, read your contract or reach out to your friendly store manager for clarification. To find contact information for your store office, simply search the address from our home page.

What Can You Store in a Storage Unit?

Pretty much everything else! Visit our storage guides page to learn the proper storage techniques for the most commonly stored items.

Storage Guides

Updated 3/26/18 from an article originally published 1/10/13. 

About the Author


Lauren Thomann

Lauren Thomann is a moving and storage expert. She attended the University at Buffalo and has worked in the storage industry for over five years. Here on the Life Storage blog, you can find Lauren covering everything from finding a home, settling into a new home and all the stages in between.

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