Those who are downsizing to a smaller apartment, moving home to live with parents to save money or simply have too much stuff, may find storage units a useful solution for dealing with extra belongings. While storage units may be the answer to de-cluttering your home, adequate insurance coverage is the answer to protecting items while in storage, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
If an item is valuable enough to merit paying for storage, it should be financially protected with the proper amount and type of insurance. Even in the best managed storage
facilities, theft, fire and other disasters can and do occur. That’s why before signing a rental agreement, it is important to find out what types of losses will be covered by the storage facility and whether supplemental insurance may be needed. Consumers
should also check their home or renters insurance policies to learn how much insurance protection they may already have.
Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies that include off-premises protection provide insurance coverage for property in storage facilities from theft and damage from
fires, tornadoes and other disasters listed in the policy. They will not cover damage from flooding, earthquakes, mold and mildew, vermin or poor maintenance. Some insurers may limit the amount of coverage to 10 percent of the amount of insurance you have
on your overall personal possessions for items stolen or damaged away from home. Other insurers may offer higher limits, so check with your insurance agent or company representative.
Personal possessions can be covered on either an actual cash value or a replacement cost basis. An actual cash value policy would pay only the depreciated value of an item,
while a replacement cost policy would pay to replace the item at what it would cost to purchase it at the time of loss. Replacement cost policies generally cost about 10 percent more but are a better value in the long run.
If you intend to store valuable property such as art, antiques, jewelry, furs or other expensive items, there may be dollar restrictions under your standard policy. Ask your
agent or company representative about adding a floater or endorsement to your policy in order to fully cover these items.
One of the best ways to protect your property and ensure that you are prepared to submit a claim in the event of a loss, is to create a detailed home inventory of all your possessions,
including those in storage. If your property is stolen or damaged, an inventory can help speed the claims process and substantiate your loss. It will also help you determine how much insurance to buy to adequately protect your possessions.
In order make the process of creating a home inventory easier, the I.I.I. has developed free, online software called
Know Your Stuff. The program walks
you through your home room by room and allows you to enter important data such as purchase price, serial numbers, etc. You can also upload photos and scanned receipts and appraisal forms. The data is stored on a secure site where only you can view it—your
inventory is safe and you can access it from any computer, at anytime.
The I.I.I. offers the following tips for choosing a storage company:
- Make sure the facility is constructed using fire-resistant materials.
- Find out what security measures are being taken by the storage company. Well run facilities provide electronic gates with coded access, an on-site manager, monitored
video surveillance, adequate lighting, individual door alarms and personal locks available for purchase.
- Use a facility that offers climate-controlled space. Climate-controlled units maintain a temperature of 55 to 85 degrees. This feature helps protect stored belongings
from extreme temperatures as well as mold and mildew.
- The unit should have roll-up doors that properly close and lock.
- Check that the roof is in good repair with no sign of interior leaks.
- Make sure the facility prohibits the storage of hazardous material.