4 Keys to Increasing Tenant Insurance Coverage

Boosting the number of tenants with insurance coverage is first and foremost about protecting the reputation of your self-storage facility. 

For example, If an unexpected event damages several of your units, tenants without insurance are left without compensation for their stored items. Even though the rental contract makes it clear that you are not responsible, customers will still often put the blame on the facility.

A risk management-based approach seeks to avoid such reputational harms by looking out for your customers’ best interest. By making sure every tenant has coverage, you can protect your business and your customers at the same time. 

But consumers these days are watching their budgets, and some might resist any fees that they see as unnecessary. So how can you overcome this predicament and get more of your tenants enrolled in an insurance plan?

Here’re are four practices to help you close the coverage gap:

1. Require proof of insurance

It may seem like a hassle, but requiring proof of insurance could potentially save you from dealing with bigger problems down the road. If a customer doesn’t want to enroll in the plan you offer, they can provide proof of coverage from their homeowner’s or renter’s policy. 

2. Train your staff

Training your staff to properly explain the benefits of tenant insurance is essential to success. An overly strong sales pitch will likely cause customers to retreat. Instead, make it clear that tenant insurance is required for the rental and everyone gets it. 

Furthermore, tenant insurance often provides better coverage and a lower deductible than some homeowners policies. In some cases a tenant’s deductible may be more than the value of their damaged items when using their own insurance. Being able to explain this value to the customer at the point of sale is something that you must train your staff to do well.

3. Upgrade your website

If you are offering online move-ins on your self-storage website, make sure you can enroll tenants into tenant insurance as part of that process. Getting them to sign up or provide proof at a later time can be a pain in the neck, and will have your employees spending too much of their time trying to chase down tenants for paperwork.

4. Use technology to your advantage

If tenants slip by without providing proof of coverage, this can create a risky situation for you. Using a tenant insurance platform that integrates with your facility management software makes it easier to keep track of each tenant’s coverage status and find those that aren’t complying with your policy.

Take steps to boost enrollment now

The bottom line is, the more renters you can enroll into a tenant insurance or protection plan, the better insulated you’ll be from any blowback that might occur in the event of a cataclysmic event. Use the tips above to help you close the tenant coverage gap.

The Importance of Cybersecurity Training for Self-Storage Teams

An estimated 30,000 websites are hacked each day. Don’t let your facility website be one of them.

In 2021, businesses experienced a 50 percent increase in the number of cyberattacks each week compared to 2020. Security experts warn that the rate and sophistication of such attacks are expected to rise.

As self-storage operators increasingly move towards online rentals, they are becoming more and more of a target for cyber attacks. Such attacks can compromise customer data and the damage can cost operators thousands of dollars to repair. Some attacks use a type of computer virus called ransomware to take control of your machine and hold it for ransom. Needless to say, any kind of cyberattack is bad for your business.

Identifying Cyberattacks

Most cyberattacks succeed due to a lapse in human judgment. For example, “spearphishing” attacks involve sending a personalized message to a target that imitates a genuine communication from a trusted source. Such messages commonly encourage the victim to click on a link. This often leads to the log-in screen of a spoofed website (of a bank or software service for example), where the victim types in their username and password.

Falling victim to an attack like the one described above can be detrimental to your business. Once a hacker gains credentials to one of your accounts, it is very often a matter of time before they can infiltrate others. This is the primary reason why it is never a good idea to use the same password for multiple accounts.

Aside from adhering to secure password protocols, the best way to prevent attacks is by training your self-storage staff to identify them.

Why Your Storage Facility Needs Cybersecurity Training

Your front office staff is often the first, and last, line of defense against cyberattacks. Without proper training, it is easy to be duped by spearphishing and other types of attacks that use social engineering

In the example provided in the previous section, a trained employee would hover over the link before clicking it to read the URL. They would then immediately notice that the web address is suspicious and not click through. The employee would flag the message as suspicious and report it, and potentially save you thousands of dollars and days of stress as a result

Spoofed websites are made to look real, but the URL will not be the same as the legitimate site. For example you might get a message claiming to be from LinkedIn that your password needs to be reset. You click on the URL and see that it starts with “linked-in.com” instead of the correct spelling. That is a sure sign you just landed on a suspicious website that is trying to steal your information.

Spotting phishing attempts isn’t so hard, once you learn what to look for. This is why requiring all employees to complete at least one cybersecurity training session each year is strongly recommended. 

Putting Cybersecurity Training into Practice

The more cybersecurity training you can give to your employees the better protected your operation will be. Training can be conducted online, with different companies providing educational platforms to businesses. Training consists of different modules, or lessons, that take place through a series of slides, vidoes, quizzes and interactive scenarios.

You can also set up occasional phishing tests to see how your employees respond to a simulated attack. If they fall for such tests, it is a sign you need to step up their training.

A good place to start is Google’s free phishing simulator. Here you can test your skills separating malicious email messages from safe ones.

Below are some more resources for cybersecurity training worth considering:

10 Ways to Create a Safer Environment for Your Tenants

When people rent a storage unit, they want a safe and streamlined service to meet their needs. With some preparation, consistent maintenance, and mindfulness, self-storage operators can provide a safe environment for tenants. This reduces the liabilities from lawsuits that are related to personal injury and negligent property. In turn, storage units can see crime reduction, enjoy better reviews, and maintain a good reputation for long-lasting success. 

So what are some ways to create a safe environment for your storage unit tenants? Here are some of top methods a storage facility can use to create the best environment for everyone:

  1. Routinely inspect railings and ramps — Infrastructure failure is a surprisingly common cause of on-site injuries. Thankfully, by doing preventative maintenance on essential structural components like railings and ramps, you can make sure they don’t break and injure your customers. 
  2. De-ice and treat your pavement in winter weather — Slipping on icy ramps, roads, and walkways are another common cause of injury. Make sure you stay on top of this potential problem by pre-treating these areas before a major winter storm or an overnight freeze. 
  3. Maintain all storage units properly— Proper maintenance, such as rolling up doors, servicing the HVAC regularly (for air-conditioned units), and lubricating door hinges can prevent premature wear and tear from rust and other weather-related hazards. 
  4. Install video surveillance — A top-quality security system will not only deter thieves and trespassers but will also give your customers greater confidence in renting from your unit. Make sure to install motion sensors for sensitive areas and keep these areas visible for surveillance cameras to catch footage.
  5. Upgrade lighting— For your security system to work, proper outdoor lighting is necessary. If customers can access their belongings 24/7, it’s your responsibility to keep these areas highly visible around the clock. 
  6. Keep floors clean — Slick floors can lead to slips and injuries, so make sure that your facility has clean floors that provide excellent traction at all times. 
  7. Clear corridors — Injuries can also come from accidents related to clutter and blockages in corridors. Take away any chance of this happening by keeping all pathways clear. 
  8. Hire security — The presence of security guards can provide a great sense of relief for customers and discourage thieves from entering your storage unit business. This is an excellent investment for your business.
  9. Offer free Wi-Fi — Complimentary Wi-Fi isn’t just a convenience for tenants, but it also makes it possible to confidently make phone calls or share their location even when cell phone data runs low. 
  10. Ban firearms on premises — Tenants will feel more secure when they know that firearms are not allowed at the storage unit. This extra peace of mind can give them the confidence to choose your business and get a longer lease too.

Create a Safe Environment for Your Tenants

These 10 quick tips will help you create a consistently safe and enjoyable place to store belongings. If you have any more ideas about making your storage unit business safer, share them with us today.

What Self-Storage Operators Need to Know About Stopping Workplace Harassment

Letting harassment run wild at your self-storage facility isn’t only shameful, but it could be a costly mistake. 

Case in point, employers paid more than $68 million in 2019 to settle harassment claims made to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity commission.

Monetary disincentives aside, self-storage businesses big and small have role to play in standing against all forms of harassment in the workplace. Creating a work environment that is safe and free of unwanted harassment is an important responsibility that every employer must provide—not only because it is the right thing to do, but it’s also the law. 

Your storage business could be sued for creating a hostile work environment if you do not do enough to address all forms of workplace harassment. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, harassment is defined as unwelcome conduct based on one’s:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, or pregnancy)
  • National origin
  • Age (40 and up)
  • Disability
  • Genetic information

Of course, you don’t want any type of harrassment going on at your workplace. But where should you begin when it comes to taking a proactive approach to preventing it occuring in the first place?

It is not enough to respond to and stop harassment in the workplace when it occurs. Self-storage operators should implement policies and create a culture where it is well known that all forms of harrassment are taken seriously and not tolerated.

Here’s three key actions to take to reduce incidents of harrassment from occuring at your self-storage facility:

1. Establish an anti-harassment policy

Having an anti-harassment policy should be your number one priority. Without rules in place, how can you expect to enforce them?

Your policy should be as specific as possible in outlining what constitutes harassment, what the consequences are for violating the policy, and how incidents should be reported. Visit the EEOC for additional guidelines on developing a policy.  

Also keep in mind how your policy handles harassment that takes place off-premises in a remote work environment. The rise in telecommuting during the pandemic has given rise to increased harassment over email, video and chat platforms. You’d be wise to cover such situations when developing a new anti-harassment policy or update your existing procedures if needed.

2. Make prevention training mandatory for all employees

Everyone at your self-storage business, whether you have four employees or 400, plays a role in the prevention of workplace harassment. To play this role effectively, employees need to be trained how to recognize harassment taking place and what to do in such situations. People often don’t know how to react in the moment when they witness harassment, but with the right training they will be able to respond better in the future.

You can either hire an instructor to visit your business, or organize training via an online provider such as HRDirect, Everfi or Easy Llama. Behave At Work provides a handful of free training videos in addition to paid training.

3. Lead by example

Self-storage business are often very tight knit, so it is important that the owners and management lead by example.

Company leadership should announce new anti-harrassment policies and trainings, and attend in-person trainings. This shows that the initiative comes from the top and is taken extremely seriously. In addition, leadership should pay close attention to employee interactions and stay vigilant for signs of any harassment taking place and step in if needed.  On the other end of the spectrum, leadership must also not undermine their own efforts by engaging in problematic behavior such as telling inappropriate jokes or dating subordinates.

Create a safe work environment

It is the job of every storage operator to make sure they offer employees a safe and secure environment to work. Hold the anti-harassment training now, before an incident takes place that requires you to hold a training session. By taking such steps you not only reduce your company’s liability, but also minimize the potential harms faced by your hard working staff.

How an ADA Lawsuit Could Cost You

Many small business owners get caught off guard by ADA lawsuits, don’t let yourself be one of them.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that guarantees access to public businesses to people with disabilities. If you don’t adhere to these guidelines, you could face civil suits from individual plaintiffs, as well as fines or legal action from the Department of Justice (DOJ). This article will detail what ADA lawsuits are and how they can cost your storage facility.

What is the ADA ?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that requires private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees or applicants with disabilities. These protections also extend to anyone who visits a business that is open to the public such as a restaurant, hotel, store and, of course, a self-storage facility.

Reasonable accommodations are adjustments or modifications provided by a business to enable people with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities. Common examples include providing a ramp for a wheelchair user or providing materials in accessible formats such as large print, Braille, or audiotape.

What are some of its implications for self-storage owners?

The ADA is designed to prevent discrimination against individuals with a disability and ensure they can participate in society as easily as anyone else. ADA lawsuits are not just brought against big corporations but also small local businesses. Cases can be brought by employees, as well as customers.

The ADA is very specific as to what accommodations are required.

If a person with disabilities visits your facility and discovers that any part of your property is not meeting those requirements, they have grounds for a  lawsuit. Some lawsuits are brought by serial filers, who visit businesses regularly looking for potential violations of the ADA. No matter the nature of the lawsuit, however, your business could be liable for every violation of the ADA.

ADA Liability

The requirements of the ADA are outlined in the document titled ADA Standards for Accessible Design (the Standards). These Standards include provisions regarding an establishment’s:

  • Parking lot
  • Walkways
  • Doorways
  • Restrooms
  • Other areas of a building or facility that are open to and used by public members. 

If a business fails to comply with these standards, it can be sued under Title III of the ADA. Title III covers any private entity that owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation—which includes retail stores, restaurants, and hotels—or commercial facilities such as office buildings and factories. It also applies to state and local governments when they provide programs, activities, or services that affect interstate commerce.

How much could an ADA lawsuit cost?

Suppose a business fails to comply with ADA regulations and someone files a lawsuit. In that case, it may need to pay compensatory damages—such as compensation for lost wages or medical bills—and cover that person’s attorney fees. On average, that could cost about $25,000—not including your own legal fees. The amount of money awarded in compensatory damages depends on what kind of harm occurred because of noncompliance. In addition, the business will have to spend money completing the needed repairs and upgrades to comply with the ADA.

ADA Compliance Checklist

While many businesses have taken significant steps to make their establishments ADA compliant, others have fallen behind or do not understand what these laws mean for them. To avoid a costly lawsuit, evaluate your property on a regular basis to make sure that it is up to ADA standards. If your facility isn’t compliant, start working upgrades into the maintenance schedule to protect your business from ADA liability. 

Entryways

Making your facility accessible to individuals with disabilities begins with physical access from public sidewalks, public transportation, or parking. Having only one step at the door can prevent wheelchair, walker, or cane users from entering and make entry difficult for many other people with mobility problems.

Where there are one or two steps at an entry, users can gain access in a variety of ways, such as by using an alternate accessible entrance, creating a short ramp, changing the area in front or to the side of the door to eliminate a step, or installing a lift.

Ramps

Curb edges and other dangers can be extremely harmful to those with impairments. The ADA curb ramp regulations are in place to help prevent persons from falling out of wheelchairs or scooters or tripping when walking with a cane or walker. Accessibility is also a consideration, as federal regulations consider barring access in public places as discrimination. 

Parking Spaces

The suitable stall sizes, markings, and slot positions must be considered and observed to fully comply with the norms and regulations for handicap-accessible parking. If you choose to apply new markings to a new parking facility or to restripe an existing one, these are the details you must be aware of to ensure compliance.

Accessible Storage Units

The ADA required self-storage facilities to comply with specific particular standards as of March 15, 2012. Here’s a breakdown of the rules:

  • A minimum of 5% of the first 200 units in each self-storage facility must be wheelchair accessible.
  • In addition, 2% of all units above 200 must be wheelchair accessible.
  • Wheelchair-accessible units must be available in all unit types that a company offers.
  • If a non-disabled renter requires a wheelchair-accessible unit, the business is not necessary to keep it.

Elevators

The elevator must be easily accessible in a public location (rather than, say, a cramped hallway). In addition:

  • Doors must be fully open for at least three seconds. 
  • Call buttons must be at least 0.75 inches in diameter. 
  • Button heights must be 42 inches above the floor.

Protecting Your Business from ADA Lawsuits

It would be best if you made your facility as accessible as possible. Some visitors may experience difficulties that have nothing to do with your business. If a disabled customer has an accident and decides to file a lawsuit against you, it’s your job to prove that reasonable accommodations were made—and that someone else was at fault for any injuries or property damage caused by their actions or negligence. 

To help protect yourself from ADA lawsuits, remember to always do the following:

  • Make accommodations in your facility to accommodate wheelchairs and strollers. Ensure that all entrances, hallways, and restrooms are wide enough for wheelchairs. 
  • Install ramps and grab bars in bathrooms, if necessary.
  • Install wheelchair-accessible equipment. If a customer requests assistance, train staff to provide adequate support to users of walkers and wheelchairs. Be sure to train employees on how best to assist disabled customers when they request help moving from one area of your facility to another.
  • Instruct employees on what they can and cannot do. If someone has a disability-related complaint against your business, it’s essential that you can prove your employee didn’t go above and beyond their responsibilities.