Unclaimed storage is as much a part of the removals process and industry as the house move itself. Typically rented out with the intention to store items that have spent years in garages and attics, storage units find themselves forgotten, along with the items inside.
So what happens? The popularity of TV shows such as Storage Wars suggest that these units just go straight to auction for groups of storage hunters to pawn off all of your junk, occasionally finding items worth a fortune. But it’s not this straight forward…rather what happens to the storage units depends and changes from country to country in accordance with laws and customs.
The storage company must make an attempt to contact the renter once payment is no longer received, whether this is because the credit number has changed or because payment has simply stopped due to the end of the contract. Often, if the renter cannot be reached by mail, email or phone, the storage company will proceed to place an advertisement in the local paper announcing that the unclaimed storage unit will go up for auction.
The public will be invited to the auction, and even the previous owners will have the opportunity to bid on their lost items if they wish. Typically no one is allowed to look around the unit or handle the items before bidding. Storage units can either be filled with a variety of miscellaneous items, or only contains the items deemed invaluable by their owners and abandoned. Depending on local laws, it is often up to the manager of the unit as to whether the unclaimed storage will be auctioned off as a unit or in separate items.
It will only be at this point of the auctioning where the manager of the facility can enter the unit to ensure the items contained comply with the facility’s regulations. Often, for abandoned units, they don’t: items can be stolen, drugs, hazardous materials, living animals and in this case, the authorities will deal with them.
At the auction unclaimed storage units can be sold for just a few pounds or dollars, or thousands depending on the contents and who is bidding at the auction. The money received by the storage company in the auction often covers the debt left by the previous renters, but if there is an outstanding balance the company will often try to supply the renter will a bill, even if it goes through a collections agency.
Unclaimed storage can be complicated depending on what is found inside the unit, but for the most part it is dealt with in a straightforward auction. Units can be full of surprises – managers never know what they’re going to find inside.