Self-service storage is an industry in which a storage space unit (like a container, a room, or even outdoor space) on private property is rented to a person who needs extra space to store personal belongings. The purpose of the unit is to provide a secure and convenient place to store one’s “stuff” for the renter who simply has no room for it at home. Units are also rented to smaller businesses looking for extra space to keep seasonal merchandise, archived documents, or other inventory stored in a place cheaper than a warehouse. The self-storage units are usually rented on a short-term basis for a monthly fee as people need somewhere to store their possessions while in a middle of a move from one location to another. There are things people and businesses own that might become combustible due to extreme temperatures so a climate controlled room should be considered before one blows up their unit and the surrounding storage rooms. Personal property in storage units have been vandalized, robbed, and damaged through fires and natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Personal property has also been lost by renters when their storage units were auctioned off due to failure to pay rent; but what if you have proof that you did make the payments and your storage unit full of personal family possessions was auctioned off anyway?
Mr. Martin Juarez works for General Motors. A married man with four children and one granddaughter, he began collecting comics with his brother in the 1980’s. He never really had a preference on what comic company he bought from for like many other readers if the story caught his attention he kept on buying the same series. [Most comic book titles published by various comic books companies were very good back in the 1980s.] He happened to have purchased many special issues throughout the years, including highly sought after comics such as the first appearance of popular Marvel Comics characters Cable and Deadpool, and even a specially graded issue of DC’s Batman Eternal autographed by writer Scott Snyder. Since the 1980s to the present Mr. Juarez has collected enough comic books to store in a mixture of long storage boxes and some shorter ones, 15 in total. He planned on handing down his comics to his children someday.
Like many others before him, Mr. Juarez rented a self-storage unit due to a lack of space in his residence to store and protect various valuable and sentimental items including all of his comic books. Mr. Juarez put the comics into a specific self-storage unit facility that was referred to him by a friend.
According to Mr. Juarez, he and his wife signed a monthly contract with the facility. When they moved to a different part of town, they called the facility to advise it of their new home address. On June 3rd, Mr. Juarez went to the storage place to make a payment because the monthly fee for their rented self-storage unit never came out of their account for the month of May according to his bank records. When he told them he was there to make a payment, he was informed by the manager at the office “not to worry about it” because his storage unit was auctioned off! He was informed that they sent letters to his attention, but the facility still had the Juarez’s old address on file even though the Juarez’s insist that they had called and advised the facility of their new address. The storage facility accused Mr. Juarez of failing to make payments since October 2015 but Mr. Juarez’s bank statements suggest otherwise. His records indicate that payments were made via automatic withdrawal until May 2016. The storage facility further implied that Mr. Juarez did not return their phone calls.
“They said they called us but our phone records show no phone calls came from them. I was devastated, not just because of my comics being gone, but because of everything we had in there that was of family memories. It really hurts to have your personal things taken from you. A lot of memories gone.”
“When they sold our storage unit in the auction, all they would say is “sorry”.”
To make matters worse, Mr. Juarez learned that the person who bought his family unit in the auction had already sold everything. Had the Juarez family physically received notice from the management or the legal representative of the facility they would still have had their cherished possessions.
Mr. Juarez wants people to learn from his experience. His advice to people who want to get a storage unit is to “Write down everything that you have going into your storage unit and log it. DO NOT PROCRASTINATE. Find out the value of each item that you have and keep it updated each month.” When asked if he would ever use a self-storage unit facility again Mr. Juarez answered he would. “…I would get another storage unit if need be. I’ve learned the hard way on what to do.”
Most affected by the loss of the comic books, other than Mr. Juarez, is his 16 year old daughter. “She’s the one who’s into comics like me” he said.
Luckily the Juarez family did have renter’s insurance and is in the process of filing a claim. The family is also considering legal action against the facility .
Monthly rates for self storage units at storage facilities can be expensive and do not guarantee that one’s personal belongings, be it an RV camper, a boat, or boxes of comic books, are fully secure. Martin Juarez’s story is proof that even a miscommunication during a crosstown move can have you lose your belongings. It is best to heed the advice of Mr. Juarez: get insurance, pay attention to the status of your unit, and log & keep photographs of your items for insurance purposes and police reports.