Storage unit guide

Written by Anthony Michael

Updated July 8, 2024 | Published November 28, 2022

You just purchased the home of your dreams, but it’s not going to be ready by your current home’s closing date. Your daughter is moving into your house and needs to use the guest room that you were using for storage. Or, maybe your house is undergoing extensive renovations.

What do you with your personal belongings? No reason to panic—you can always rent a storage unit.

Read on to learn all you need to know about storage units and how they impact your insurance.

Thumbnail showing exterior of an outdoor self-storage facility

What is a storage unit?

A storage unit is a semi-enclosed or fully enclosed space that is primarily intended for the storage of personal property. Storage units can be accessed by the renter of the unit, pursuant to the terms of the rental agreement.

There are two types of units: full-service and self-storage. A full-service storage company will pick up your belongings and deliver them to the storage unit. Customers can often request and schedule pick-ups and deliveries from their smartphone. A full-service company may also take photos and document your possessions. These units are more expensive.

Self-storage units are the most popular option on the market. Customers are responsible for delivering and picking up their belongings from the unit themselves. Self-storage companies will not document customers’ possessions and do not keep track of what is inside the unit, however. These units are less expensive than full-service units.

There are also indoor and outdoor storage units. Indoor units provide greater security and are often climate controlled to protect your possessions against the elements. Indoor storage is ideal for valuable or fragile items or items that are vulnerable to damage from rodents, bugs, or the elements.

Outdoor storage units on the other hand are covered and locked, but not climate controlled. One advantage of outdoor units is you can drive your vehicle right up to the unit and load or unload your belongings.

Reasons for using a storage unit

People use storage units for a number of reasons. For example: for seasonal storage of holiday decorations, costumes, or lawn equipment. Or, for storing vehicles, like boats, motorcycles, or automobiles.

Really, storage units are useful for storing just about anything that you don’t want (or have room for) at your house. A university student may want to leave their dorm room belongings in storage instead of lugging them back home over the summer, too.

Whatever the reason for using one, storage units are a practical way for people to store their valued possessions safely and securely.

How to rent a storage unit

Before you go ahead and rent a unit, there are several factors to consider.

First of all, you need to know what size unit you need for the belongings you wish to store and what type of unit you desire (indoor/outdoor, full-service/self-storage) for your budget.

You can reserve a storage unit online or in person by signing a storage unit agreement or contract. If you reserve in person, it is a good opportunity to get a look at the facility. You will also need to select the unit size—most storage companies offer multiple sizes, usually 5’x5′, 5’x10′, 10’x10′, 10’x15′ and 10’x20′.

Finally, set a move-in date and invest in a solid lock.

What to look for

Before making your decision, you should consider various factors. Think about climate control, accessibility, number of locks, surveillance, pricing, sizes, along with safety and security.

For example, is the storage unit accessible 24/7? Is the facility well-lit? Does the storage company have a good reputation?

Climate control is an important factor, especially if you’re storing furniture and clothes. A climate-controlled storage unit protects your possessions from extreme temperatures and humidity, while preventing mildew, mould, and other damaging conditions. Remember, mould can form on paper, cardboard, wood products, fabric, and upholstery, so if you are planning on storing anything made of these materials, you will need a climate-controlled unit.

The rental agreement

The rental agreement or contract specifies the terms of the lease. Remember that it is a binding document, so take the time to read it thoroughly before you sign, there is a lot of important information in there!

The contract should include many important bits of information:

  • a description of the unit
  • the length of the lease
  • the amount of the rent
  • payment due dates
  • the security deposit amount
  • the payment method
  • non-payment terms
  • additional fees
  • tenant rights and responsibilities
  • landlord rights and responsibilities
  • cancellation terms
  • what you can and cannot store in the unit
  • the value limit for items stored in the unit
  • the move-out process

If you’re unclear on any of the terms, make sure you clarify them with the rental unit representative.

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Preparing your items for storage

So, you’ve done your due diligence and found the perfect storage facility. Congratulations! Now you need to prepare your belongings for storage.

The first step is to familiarize yourself with the storage facility’s rules and restrictions. For example, storage companies will not allow hazardous or flammable items such as fireworks and chemicals, nor will they allow perishable food.

Next, you should make a detailed inventory of your belongings, as it can be very easy to forget what you have in storage. Write down a list or create a spreadsheet and take pictures for insurance purposes. Make sure your items are clean, dry, and disinfected before packing them away. Don’t forget to label your boxes or bins so you can easily find what you’re looking for. You can also use clear bins instead of cardboard boxes.

If you are storing furniture, disassemble it to create more space for boxes and bins. You may even want to wrap more fragile furniture pieces such as headboards or mirrors.

Transporting your belongings to the storage facility

Once you’ve organized your possessions, you will need to transport them to the facility.

If you have opted for a full-service storage company, you don’t have to worry about that—the company will take care of it for you. If not, you can use your own vehicle or rent a truck. Some storage companies will even provide a free truck.

Organizing your belongings in the storage unit

Be strategic when placing your possessions in the storage unit. Store large, heavy items, such as furniture, on the floor and towards the back of the unit. Fragile items should be placed higher up to avoid damage, while items like mirrors and paintings should be stored standing up. Place the items you need to access more frequently towards the front of the unit.

Storage units and home insurance

Most home insurance providers do not offer coverage for items kept permanently in a storage facility. You would have to purchase a separate storage unit policy. There are, however, limits to this coverage. For example, if you were storing a motorcycle or an automobile, you would need a separate policy, as vehicles aren’t covered under home insurance policies.

On the other hand, most insurance companies will provide coverage for insured personal property kept temporarily in a storage unit. For example, you move some of your belongings to a storage facility during renovations to your home.

If you are keeping personal property in a storage unit during a move, Square One will provide coverage as long as the origin and destination home are insured. We recommend you contact your insurance provider to confirm coverage and limits for personal property kept in storage units.

Commonly asked questions

For how long can I rent a storage unit?

Generally, there is no maximum time limit for renting a storage unit. However, most storage unit companies will have a minimum rental period and offer monthly or weekly agreements.

How much does it cost to rent a storage unit?

This will depend on how many items you wish to store and for how long. The size of the unit also affects the cost. Some companies offer promotional pricing, such as “first month free.”

How does payment work?

Payment is generally made monthly on a specified date. It is important to pay your invoices on time, as most companies will charge a late fee and possibly deny you entry to the facility until payment is up to date.

Want to learn more? Visit our Home Buying, Selling and Moving resource centre for everything you need to know about real estate, buying a home, or moving. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.


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