One of the primary advantages of self-storage over traditional storage methods is ease of access. In the past, those of us wishing to store items would have to make formal arrangements with our storage providers to get access. This would involve advance warning, little flexibility and we’d generally have been charged for the privilege.
Self-storage is a completely different ball-game. The whole point of the service is that you get your goods to storage yourself, store them as you like and access them whenever you want. There are so many self-storage companies in operation today, however, that there are no standard rules or methods of access – what you get will depend on the self-storage facility you choose. It’s important, therefore, to think about what you want from an access perspective before you make a final decision.
The first access issue you’ll be confronted with in self-storage is one of logistical access – that is to say, how and where you can initially drop off your goods. Recent developments in the industry have seen a considerable growth in ‘mobile’ self-storage where the company drops a unit at your home, you pack it or they pack it for you and then they take it away to store. In this instance, you won’t have to think about how to get your items to the self-storage facility. You will, however, pay extra for the service.
In most cases, however, you’ll be choosing to take your items there yourself. Many self-storage operators will be laid out in such a way that you can simply drive up to your unit, park outside and then unload straight into it. It’s recommended that you check whether this is possible before you choose a facility, especially if you have heavy items to unload. Some self-storage companies will require you to park in designated car parks that may not be right next to your unit or may limit the time you can park up outside your unit to unload. Some may even charge you car-parking fees.
Although many purpose built self-storage facilities are simply composed of ground level unit buildings, many will also offer multi-story self-storage units. In these cases, you’ll need to establish what size of service elevators are on offer and how much extra effort will be needed for you to get your items from vehicle to unit. You’ll find that the majority of self-storage providers will help you get your stuff into storage if you need assistance but may have to pay extra for certain options. Services vary from supplier to supplier but can include:
Workers to help you load and unload your items to and from your unit – you’ll probably pay for this option. Some facilities offer a full fee-based removal service that can pack your items at home, take them to your unit and pack them up there.
Van or truck hire options – in some cases this option may be offered free of charge for a set time period as an incentive to get your business, although you will generally have to pay a refundable deposit against damage.
Loading equipment such as moving carts or trolleys – you’ll normally be able to use this type of equipment free of charge, although in some instances you might have to pay a fee or a refundable deposit against damage.
Once you’ve successfully stored your items there will be times when you need to access them and remove/replace stuff. Self-storage operates on the premise that you can choose when to access your unit – you should still check out actual access times before signing up. Each self-storage company will work in a different way – some are open 24/7, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and some only allow access during specific business opening times and may be closed on holidays. You may find that some self-storage companies will offer some flexibility of access – they may, for example, have official opening hours of 8am to 8pm, but will be willing to let you make appointments to access your unit outside of these hours.
Technically, you are the only person who can access your unit. It may be padlocked, in which case you’ll have the key(s) or it may be key-coded with your own combination number. Self-storage facilities appreciate that there may be times when you want other people to access your unit and will generally allow you to choose who can have access. This may be as simple as giving your key or key-code to your representative or may involve you having to forewarn the facility that someone else will be going into the unit. In some cases, you might have to give notice in writing and your representative might need ID before being admitted.
The self-storage company itself will usually not allow their own employees to access your unit. There will be exceptions to this rule – for example, if they believe you have defaulted from your agreement or if there is an emergency.