Alternatives to Traditional Padlocks for Self-Storage Facilities

As a self-storage facility owner, you owe it to your tenants to give them top-notch security. Aside from video surveillance and other reasonable precautions, a clever move is to consider alternatives to traditional padlocks.

Although padlocks are often the go-to security for self-storage, plenty more options are available. New technology and materials mean more protection for site owners. Here’s a look at three high-security locks to replace your padlocks.

Padlock Problems

Only a few external locks offer maximum protection; however, thieves and burglars easily defeat the old linchpin of the padlock regularly. Its pitfall is the schematic pin and tumbler system, making it a cinch to pick the lock. With hundreds of DIY lock-picking tutorials online, it’s only a matter of time before thieves take YouTube videos to heart.  Padlocks are only a deterrent, not a full-proof method of preventing a break-in.

1. Combination Locks 

Combination locks add a layer of protection by coupling the power of the traditional pin-and-tumbler lock and adding a sequence of symbols or numbers. Inputting this sequence is the only way to unlock it. Also, these lock types don’t use keys like padlocks, so no more losing keys.

Remember, combination locks are susceptible to traditional cracking methods — but not many thieves can master that skill. Unfortunately, unless they’re closed-shackle locks, this type can be snipped with bolt-cutters, too. Even though they work in many situations, sometimes you need more protection, so it pays to consider disc locks and electronic locks. 

2. Disc Locks

Disc locks are similar to padlocks but have a more reliable history. They have a short, embedded hasp, making them suitable for self-storage facilities. Plus, bypassing the keyhole is challenging, so potential thieves tend to give up on the endeavor. The locks’ shape makes it nearly impossible for criminals to snip it with a pair of bolt-cutters. They’re often designed with a pin and tumbler keyhole, making them susceptible to bump keys. Using an alternative to the pin and tumbler is essential to ensure security. Thankfully, plenty of disc locks use alternative designs. 

3. Electronic Locks

If you’re looking for ultimate security, consider the electronic lock. It’s unusual to find these locks on self-security units, but they’re trendy on gates or external doors. They’re highly resistant to tampering thieves. Plus, they don’t have keyholes to breach. 

One reason these locks are so effective is that the design removes the traditional lock and key function. Instead, they’re opened with keypads or magnetic swipe cards. This layer of protection makes it incredibly challenging for thieves to breach your tenant’s personal information and beat the lock.

No matter which lock design you choose to use for your external gates and doors, remember that your facility’s security is of utmost importance. 

Self Storage Developers: Equity Partnerships to Launch Projects

Entering the self-storage industry can be an exciting prospect. The chance to develop and build your own facility can lead to a financial windfall but getting started can also bring with it many newfound risks. Getting the most out of your self-storage facility requires the right amount of capital, good locations and industry expertise. All of these things can be difficult for one person to obtain which is why building an equity team can help you mitigate risk by allowing you to team up with expert business partners who can assure the projects optimal success.

Here are a few things to consider when building your equity team.

Why build an equity team?

You usually want to build an equity team when you have a self-storage project but you are lacking the key ingredients to get that project off the ground. For example, you might have a good plot of land, but may lack the capital needed to develop the property or vice versa. Perhaps, you have both the land and the capital to develop the project but you lack the expertise in dealing with municipal building codes.

An equity team adds an infusion of management, financing and expertise to a project you are unable to complete on your own in exchange for split ownership on the project. However, the formation of an equity team should not be taken lightly because working with bad business partners can only hurt your project. Here are a few things you need to think about.

Draft a summary of the property location

If you are looking to build an equity team for your self-storage project, then it is important for everyone on your team to have all the necessary information regarding the location. Bring a summary of the location that tells potential members of your equity team the size of the land, the zoning and the history of the site. The land history should tell team members what the land was originally used for in the past and if there is proper access to utilities. Be honest about the condition of the land and tell reveal and issues that could be prohibitive.

What is the entitlement status?

What do your local municipalities think of your project? Has your project been zoned for self-storage and do you have all the necessary permits to build a self-storage facility? The biggest thing you need to avoid when it comes to entitlements is resistance to your project. If a city or its citizens are against your project it can be almost impossible to get your facility properly zoned.   

Figure out if it is feasible

Make sure you have a feasible project before you and your team begin investing in a self-storage project. Know how much competition is in your area. What is the demand for a self-storage facility and how many self-storage facilities are in your area? Do a feasibility study and learn how much your competition pays in rent, how occupied they are and what it costs to build their facility. Knowing these things will give you a greater sense of the market and allow you to correctly assess your own project.

Create accurate projections and a budget

Make sure you have projections of how you think the project will do month by month by creating a proper profit and loss statement. Create accurate traffic reports so you know how many people come through your area at a given time. Report on each phase of construction so we can accurately asses the cost of the project and when it is projected to be completed.

Most importantly make sure you have good character references for every member of your equity team. You always want to work with people of high integrity. Character references should be with people and organizations your team members have worked with in the past. They should have a good credit history and consistently pay their loans on time. A past lawsuit does not need to be a deal-breaker but a history of lawsuits is a bad sign. Doing your due diligence with the people you are working with is so important in preventing unwanted risk.

Starting a self-storage facility can be a difficult but rewarding process. Building the right equity team around you can ease some of the burdens and mitigate your risk in a hot market. Follow the steps and cover all your bases and you should be on your way to a strong partnership.

Dave Kotter is the Principal of Integrity Capital LLC, a commercial mortgage brokerage in Scottsdale Arizona. Integrity Capital has obtained self-storage financing for clients across the nation. They are an expert in the industry.

5 Small Businesses You Want Operating at Your Facility

Although allowing a legit business to operate from a storage unit might seem like a bad idea, many self-storage facility owners are rethinking this option. It’s unconventional, sure, and there’s a slew of reasons why you’d question this approach. However, according to Frugal Entrepreneur, using a self-storage unit as an operational base is trending advice to new founders. That said, here are five businesses that you want to use your facility as a home base.  

1. Contractors or Landscapers

Slinging tools is an art in itself, and it can make for a profitable small business. That said, many professional contractors or landscapers depend on a slew of bulky equipment to get the job done. A self-storage unit can be an ideal home base for this type of business because it’s more of a grab-and-go scenario in terms of these professionals and their “office.”

2. Indie Artists

Independent artists have been entertaining society for decades on end. Only now is it easier for them to extend their artistic reach—and subsequently, they’re business. From painters to sculptures to sketchers, artists tend to have mounds of supplies and material to store. Using a self-storage unit for a base works well for indie artists because of space and temperature control, too.

3. Book Publishers

Much like indie artists and contractors, book publishers often have mass amounts of physical products on hand. The same goes for book dealers or distributors. Consider items such as books, brochures, and magazines. Before distribution, a self-storage unit serves as an excellent inventory hub, per se. 

4. Sales Professionals

Sales professionals function a lot like book dealers in that they’ll have vast amounts of hand-outs and distributional products. Finding a place to store all of the sales material can be tricky, which is why a self-storage unit can save the day. Not only are sales professionals easy keepers, but they tend to need units in multiple locations, as well.

5. Ecommerce Store

It’s safe to say that online retailers aren’t going anywhere soon, especially specialty shops like Etsy and eBay. What’s more, is that people who craft for a living need a place to stock up on supplies and a place to store items before shipping. A self-storage fulfills both of these needs flawlessly. 

With the rise of entrepreneurship, self-storage facility owners have more to consider when it comes to their tenants. And small businesses aren’t on the shortlist anymore, making the self-storage industry even more profitable.

How to Prevent Hazardous Material at a Self-Storage Facility

Hazardous material storage is a valid concern in many places, including a self-storage facility. Not only are stored items vulnerable, but the surrounding community could be at stake, too. According to Cape Cod Times, Monument Beach residents feared a particular grocery store turned self-storage facility would “get blown up” because tenants would freely store dangerous material. Although the owners came up with a few solutions, here are more ways to prevent hazardous material at your self-storage facility.

1. Tighten the Lease Agreement

If written well, a lease agreement can serve many purposes. One commonly overlooked intent is merely to manage risk by educating the leasees. For example, include in the lease a list of hazardous materials that are not allowed on the property. Plenty of tenants blame ignorance or “I didn’t know!” when an accident happens. 

Also, establish a reinforcement policy for tenants who break the lease agreement. Some self-storage operators charge a fine while others penalize in more strict ways, such as lease termination. Whatever you choose, remember to stick with it.

Lastly, require positive identification from the start by verifying phone numbers, addresses, names, etc. Having the correct information on hand is often enough to dissuade any potential rulebreakers. 

2. Improve Security

Although a self-storage facility doesn’t typically have crowds of people like an airport or a supermarket would, unique exposure still exists. People expect their thousands of dollars worth of personal items to be safe—even from the threat of a hazardous material incident, for example. 

That said, following are a few recommendations to enhance safety measures:

  • Install security cameras
  • Build fences surrounding the property
  • Protect the facility with locks, gates, keypads, etc. 

From a marketing viewpoint, promoting a robust security system drums up more business than most other strategies, after all. 

3. Enforce Search Policy

To preface this point, operators can’t typically search units unless a specific set of extreme circumstances exists. However, people tend to behave better when they know they’re being monitored. So, the “watchful operator strategy” goes a long way. 

Notice the types of vehicles arriving at your facility. Pay attention to how they park, and if they have an unloading pattern. The same large van backing up to a unit twice a week is an enormous red flag, for example. 

Talk with the tenants to learn more about what’s genuinely going on. And if all else fails, reference your lease agreement and enforce the search policy. 

Preventing hazardous material at your self-storage facility is more than a shot in the dark. By taking a strategic approach, you can keep your facility and the surrounding community safer. 

How to Prevent Tenant Injuries at Self-Storage Facilities

The adage that all accidents are preventable might be correct—but avoiding some injuries takes more deliberation than others. When tenant injuries do happen, the situation can be challenging for self-storage facility owners to navigate.

Just ask the attorneys handling the Hyrcak v. Public Storage, Inc case. To keep your tenants safe and your insurance loss history at a minimum, here are a few significant take-aways from Public Storage’s experience. 

Know Your Risks 

On May 31, 2016, Ruth Hyrcak slipped and fell while accessing the self-storage unit she rented from Public Storage, Inc. She sustained costly injuries and pointed a finger (and lawsuit) at Public Storage’s dimly lit and water covered area. 

Slip-and-fall claims are some of the most widespread, but others exist as well, such as:

  • Overextension; lift, push, pull, hold heavy items excessively
  • Blows from falling objects
  • Repetitive motion; straining back and joints
  • Body reaction; slow physical response

Maintain the Property 

Identifying your self-storage facility’s exposures is an excellent first step to safeguarding your tenants. Plus, when you know these risks, you can keep up to date on property maintenance, including:

  • Check lighting and emergency lighting
  • Repair old pipes or exposed electrical wires
  • Fix cracks in cement
  • Keep fire extinguishers throughout the building
  • Use signs to alert tenants of slippery areas
  • Ensure bay doors open and close properly
  • Clean up garbage and make trash cans readily available

Attending adequate maintenance will help to prevent tenant injuries and, subsequently, massive lawsuits.

Handle Injuries Effectively 

When an accident does occur, make the right actions—quickly! Assess medical needs and call local authorities for help, if needed. Also, be sure to document the incident shortly after it happens, so you have a more accurate recollection. 

One primary concern for self-storage facility owners is claiming financial responsibility for your tenant’s injury. It’s good to file an insurance claim but avoid issues of liability, such as blindly accepting the blame. 

Adjust Precautionary Efforts

Lastly, as mentioned, some accidents seem unavoidable. However, it’s never a bad idea to take a second look at what caused it. Try to pinpoint why the accident happened. Perhaps you can make changes to prevent a similar accident in the future. 

Prevent tenant injuries at self-storage facilities by taking a step back to survey the environment. Do what you can to avoid accidents, handle situations swiftly, and prevent them in the future. Not only will your tenants thank you, but so will your wallet.