What Happens with Deceased Tenants’ Units?

Retail space inside of a store

After the death of a self-storage tenant, many questions arise regarding access to the tenant’s unit and stored belongings. During this emotional time, it is still necessary to follow the proper procedures of the facility and the legal guidelines of the state in which the unit is located.** 

Knowledge of the Unit

Family members may not even know that a loved one had a storage unit until they see past-due, lien, foreclosure, or auction notices sent to the tenant’s last known address. Family members may not find out about the unit for an extended amount of time if automatic payments are still being made.

Limited Access after a Tenant Death

Family members and friends may wish to obtain access to the deceased tenant’s unit, but access is not granted to just anyone. When a facility operator is aware of the death of a tenant,  they will overlock the unit to prohibit access.

Legal Documentation for Obtaining Access

A family member or friend seeking access to a deceased tenant’s unit must provide proper legal documentationto the facility to gain access to the unit. The proper documentation must show that the family member or friend is authorized to access the deceased tenant’s property. This documentation is often a copy of the death certificate and a copy of a court order (for example, a Small Estate Affidavit or Summary Administration Letter) stating that you are the administrator or executor of the deceased’s estate.

Continuation of Rental Payments

Tenant death does not negatethe obligation to continue to pay storage fee. Someone is responsible for rental payments for the entire time that the items are stored in the unit, in addition to any accumulated back rent. If rental payments are not made, the facility can place a lien on the unit, and the deceased tenant’s belongingscan be auctioned after legal foreclosure procedures to recoup some of the rental costs.


This post offers a general look at the handling of deceased tenants’ storage units. This blog is not to be considered legal guidance.  Laws vary depending on states and situations. Please consult legal counsel for more information.