Have you ever wondered if you could just move into a storage unit and live there? With rents rising and affordable housing scarce in many cities, some people consider making their storage unit into a makeshift home. On the surface, it seems like a convenient workaround to escape high rents. But before you haul in an air mattress and microwave, know this – living in a storage unit is completely illegal.
While it’s an understandable thought for those facing homelessness, sleeping in a storage unit comes with substantial risks. Storage facilities have rules prohibiting residential use of units, and you could face fines or eviction if caught living there. Beyond angering the facility owner, you’d be putting yourself in harm’s way. Storage units lack necessities like electricity, climate control, and sanitation systems. They simply aren’t built for human habitation.
In this guide, we’ll explore all the reasons sleeping in storage units is banned. We’ll also look at smarter alternatives for those struggling to find housing. With some knowledge and planning, you can avoid the pitfalls of using a storage unit as a residence. Read on to learn the legalities around living in storage, plus safer options for weathering a housing crisis.
Reasons Sleeping in Storage Units is Illegal
Let’s start by understanding why storage facilities universally prohibit sleeping in units. Managers aren’t trying to be cruel – they have logical reasons for banning residential use. Here are the main factors that make living in storage illegal:
It Violates Rental Agreements
The first issue is that sleeping in your unit breaches most rental contracts. When you sign a storage lease, you agree not to live, sleep or work inside the space. Facilities prohibit residential habitation for important legal and safety reasons. If you violate this rule, they can terminate your lease and revoke access to the unit. Read all rental terms carefully before signing to ensure you understand the policies.
It Flouts Building Codes and Zoning Laws
Beyond rental agreements, building codes also prohibit residential occupancy in storage facilities. They are only zoned for commercial use, not housing people full-time. Storage units lack necessities like electricity, ventilation, and temperature control. The structures aren’t designed for human habitation. Using a unit as your residence violates local building codes and zoning laws. You could face citations or fines if discovered living there.
It Constitutes Trespassing
Accessing a storage facility outside their business hours is considered trespassing. Most facilities are locked and alarmed overnight when unoccupied. If you sneak in and sleep there, it’s no different legally than sleeping in someone’s shed or garage without permission. At best, you’ll be evicted. At worst, guards could press charges against you. Don’t put yourself in a position to be arrested for unlawful occupancy.
Dangers and Risks of Sleeping in Storage Units
Aside from legal woes, spending nights in a storage unit poses many health and safety risks. Storage facilities lack features that homes have to protect occupants. Here are some of the biggest physical dangers you’ll face living in a unit:
One major risk is fire. Storage units cram in all sorts of flammable items and chemicals. They lack fire prevention systems like smoke alarms and sprinklers. Packing materials, chemicals, and gasoline powered equipment could easily ignite. But with no alarm system, you’d never know a fire was burning. And with just one exit point, your chances of escape are slim. Statistics show storage unit fires double every decade. Don’t become a tragic statistic.
Lack of Climate Control
Without insulation or climate control, storage units become dangerously hot and cold. Temperatures can exceed 100°F in summer and drop below freezing in winter. Prolonged exposure to extreme heat or cold can lead to life-threatening illnesses like hypothermia, heat stroke, and dehydration. Lack of ventilation also allows mold and mildew growth, which poses respiratory risks.
No Sanitary Facilities
Storage units obviously lack bathrooms or kitchens. So you’ll have no access to running water, toilets, or even a sink overnight. According to health experts, this puts occupants at risk of infections and disease from poor hygiene. Without proper food storage and prep areas, you also risk foodborne illness from contaminated food.
The contents of storage units can also pose safety issues. Hazards like toxic chemicals, sharp tools, or heavy items could easily cause serious injury in the confined space. And if an accident occurs, you have no way to call for medical help.
Being trapped overnight in a storage facility also raises security issues. Most have no overnight staff, security cameras, or patrols. You’ll be far from emergency responders in case of a crime or accident. And with valuables stored onsite, storage facilities attract thieves. By sleeping there, you could become a victim of theft or assault. For your own safety, never stay overnight.
Legal Liability Issues
If you do suffer illness or injury sleeping in a unit, you’ll have no legal recourse. Your contents insurance and the facility’s liability insurance will not cover you for residential mishaps. You’ll bear full responsibility for any harm that results from unlawful habitation. And if dangers like pests or mold spread to other units, you’ll be liable for neighboring customers’ losses too.
Homelessness Dilemma and Alternatives
For those with no place else to go, a storage unit seems like a convenient stopgap home. But the dire risks involved make it an unwise choice when safer alternatives exist. Here are some options to explore if you’re facing homelessness and housing insecurity:
- Contact local shelters – Most cities have shelters and charities to help the homeless find temporary accommodations and get back on their feet. They can connect you with social services and resources for long-term housing assistance.
- Look into transitional housing programs – Some organizations provide interim housing for 6 months to 2 years to help people transition out of homelessness. They offer subsidized housing while you work towards self-sufficiency.
- Apply for subsidized housing – Federal and local housing agencies can help you apply for income-based public housing or rental assistance if you qualify. This makes quality housing affordable based on your current economic situation.
- Research rent relief options – Many cities offer emergency rent relief, eviction protection, and renter’s rights programs. Or nonprofits may help cover a portion of your rent temporarily.
- Consider other alternatives – As a very last resort, cars, motels, or campgrounds offer safer short-term options than storage units. But always prioritize emergency housing assistance first.
The takeaway is that resources exist, even if they take effort to find. Reach out for help through local social services so you don’t need to take risks living in prohibited spaces.
Tips for Proper Storage Unit Use
When used legally as temporary overflow space, storage units offer useful benefits for decluttering and organizing your home. Follow these tips to safely leverage self-storage without misusing the space:
- Vet facilities thoroughly – Only rent at reputable facilities with 24/7 security monitoring, gated access, climate control options, and fire prevention systems. Look for small, locally owned companies that take safety seriously.
- Inventory belongings before moving in – Catalog all items and boxes you plan to store. This prevents losing track of belongings in the cluttered space.
- Load methodically – Use dollies, carts, and ramps to safely load large items without injury. Stack and arrange boxes tightly to maximize space.
- Clean regularly – Remove all trash and food residue. Vacuum and sweep periodically to deter pests from entering.
- Use mobile storage for access – If you’ll need frequent access to stored items, portable containers allow you to keep contents at home until ready to unload.
- Pay rents on time – Avoid fees and auction risks by paying dues punctually. Sign up for auto-debit or put reminders on your calendar.
- Store valuables in climate control – For cherished items like photos or instruments, pay extra for climate regulated units that are clean and temperature stable.
- Visit during hours – Use a flashlight if accessing after dark. Never stay past closing or attempt to enter when facility is locked.
- Abide by rules – Finally, read and follow all rental terms and facility policies. Avoid eviction or fines by being an upstanding tenant.
Living in a storage unit is an unlawful and hazardous idea. Storage spaces lack necessities for human tenants and violate zoning laws when used as housing. Beyond legal penalties, you’ll face serious health and safety risks attempting to dwell in a space not meant for habitation. While the appeal is understandable for those struggling with housing insecurity, far better interim solutions exist, even within limited means. Don’t resort to unlawful and dangerous quick fixes. Instead reach out to social services so experienced advocates can guide you towards legal, sustainable housing options. With some creativity and perseverance, you can find a safe living space despite financial challenges. After all, nothing is worth risking your health and safety over.