The Truth About Self Storage Auctions

Gavel resting on a table

Self storage auction television shows have led to an increased interest in storage auctions. While a lot of what is seen on these shows is pumped up for ratings, much of it is true. In a perfect world, self storage facilities would rent 100% of their available spaces to satisfied, paying customers. However, rents sometimes don't get paid. After a set period of time and required legal notices, facility operators often choose to publicly auction the contents of a storage unit to the highest bidder in order to clear the unit, recoup the unpaid rental fees and make it available for new prospective tenants.. Unlike most auctions, with bids being placed for a single item at a time, auction bids on storage units are for the entire contents of the unit.

Before the Auction

Attendees are first made aware of all rules before the auction begins. Storage units are then opened and bidders are allowed to look through the entrance for a few minutes, but are not allowed to enter or handle any of the units’ contents. Since all items may not be visible, bidders rarely know what they are bidding on until after the bidding is complete.

After the Bidding

The highest bidder wins the entire contents of the unit and must pay immediately after the auction (usually cash) or risk forfeiting their bid. They may also be charged sales tax in some states. After the payment has been made, the winning bidders are generally given 48 hours to fully remove the contents of the unit, including all trash. If the amount paid by the bidder does not cover the original unit owner’s full balance, the remaining balance often goes to a collection agency. If the bid brings in more than the original unit owner’s unpaid balance, the overage is then returned to them.

Legal Issues

Self storage payments are contractual obligations and a lien can legally be placed on a unit as little as 30 days after a missed payment. The facility is legally obliged to make several attempts to contact delinquent tenants via phone, email, and/or mailed notices. However, if the facility is not notified of an address, phone, or email change they are unable to reach their customer. The winning bidder at the auction will now legally own all items left by the unit’s previous tenant, with the exception of specific personal items (photographs, passports, tax records, etc.) that many self-storage companies require to be returned to their office for pickup by their owner.

If you are a self-storage tenant, be sure your balance is always paid in full and on time and that your contact information is kept up to date. If you are interested in storage unit auctions, check your local classifieds, research the various websites dedicated to self storage auctions, and call Storage Post! We are happy to answer any questions you may have about self storage auctions and all your other self storage needs