Can You Live in a Storage Unit?

With rental prices in most urban areas at an all-time high, many people are looking for alternative affordable housing options. Some renters of storage units may wonder if living inside them either as a short-term emergency solution or as a permanent arrangement is a realistic option. Living in storage units is highly discouraged for a number of reasons, not least because it is illegal, uncomfortable and worst of all, dangerous.

Key Points

  • 1 Other accessible solutions to a lack of personal housing are likely to be available. See what resources your city or town offers to those at risk of homelessness.
  • 2 With no permanent legal address, it’s not possible to register for benefits, apply for work or open bank accounts.
  • 3 You are not the first or last person to consider living in a storage unit. Storage facility staff can often help you find a better solution. Reach out to them for assistance.
  • 4 Living in a storage unit can be a prosecutable defense that often results in expensive fines. Spending money on lawyer fees and paying these fines will reduce any finances saved from avoiding rent payments.

It’s Against the Law

Although the consequences vary, it’s illegal to live in a storage unit in every state across the U.S. These units were designed to hold things—not people, which is why the are neither zoned as residences, nor up to housing codes. Living in them also violates health, sanitation and safety codes which could put you (and the storage unit’s proprietor) on the hook for substantial fines and possibly jail time. Depending on the specifications of your storage unit contract, staying in a storage unit past detailed hours of operation or accessibility could qualify as trespassing. These are all serious offenses with potentially long-term ramifications that could perpetuate loss of income and lack of employment. Nearly all storage rental contracts contain clauses that forbid living in the units. Violating these terms would annul your contract which will result in instant eviction for both you and your possessions.

Unpleasant Living Conditions

Most people aren’t attracted to the idea of living in a storage unit because it seems like a luxurious option. However, while you may be prepared to weather a significant level of discomfort in order to solve an acute housing crisis, storage living is likely to be even more unpleasant than you anticipate. The small size, lack of natural light, lack of sanitation and lack of electricity creates a claustrophobic environment that could have significant negative impact on your mental health. It could also interrupt your natural circadian rhythms, resulting in Vitamin D-deficiencies and possibly a host of other health problems. Living and eating in close proximity to where you eliminate waste without access to running water is not only undesirable but also a major health concern. As well, the level of discretion one would need to avoid getting caught could result in 24/7 stress, which can take a major toll on one’s health.

Puts You in Danger

Outdoor, drive-up units that aren’t climate controlled can capture extreme heat during summer and exacerbate freezing conditions in the winter. This puts anyone who stays in one at a serious risk of hyperthermia and hypothermia, which can quickly become fatal. With no egress window in the unit and a door locking system that’s designed to be opened exclusively from the outside, even a minor fire can turn deadly in seconds. A nearly complete lack of ventilation would make you vulnerable to environmental hazards, so any kind of chemical spill or fumes could put you at risk. Even breathing in your own CO2 can have harmful effects.