Tips for Sharing a Storage Unit

Sharing your storage unit is potentially a good idea. If you only need a little space, or if you're worried about the cost, sharing a storage unit with someone you can trust might be just the thing. You can get your items put away and save money that would otherwise go to waste on unused floor space. You have to be careful though. A bad storage sharing plan, or an unreliable partner, can wind up costing you more in storage and recovery fees than you would have spent going it alone. At worst, you could wind up losing your stored items and your friendship over careless or poorly planned storage arrangements.

Key Points

  • 1 Shared storage is often cheaper and more efficient than solo options.
  • 2 The other person has access to your securely stored items, whether you’re there or not.
  • 3 The person whose name appears on the rental agreement is legally responsible for the storage unit, shared or not.
  • 4 Pick your storage partner wisely, and keep an eye on what goes into the unit.

There are several reasons why you might want to share a storage unit and several why you might not. The purpose of this guide is to give you an overview of what sharing a storage unit entails, including possible pitfalls and precautions to take to make sure your experience is a positive one. Perhaps you’re thinking about sharing your storage because you need help paying the rent or maybe you have some free space to loan a friend in need. If you’ve found a good deal and are willing to share, these tips can help you avoid disaster and keep your stuff safe.

Choose Your Storage Partners Wisely

No matter how careful you are when you’re setting up a shared storage arrangement, picking the wrong person to share with is a disaster waiting to happen. While the benefits of sharing can be immense, such as reduced cost and an extra set of hands when you’re moving things, sharing storage with a person you don’t fully trust can cause problems you may not be able to overcome.

Liability is one issue to think about before you offer to share a unit. Regardless of your personal arrangements, the property management company is probably only signing a rental agreement with one person, and if that person is you, you’re the one responsible for the rental. If the rent isn’t paid on time, if hazardous or illegal material is found in your unit or if you suffer from a loss due to damage or theft, you are the one who gets the call. If you choose a storage partner who can’t be trusted to respect the storage site’s rules, obey the law, or pay the rent on time, you might be better off either going it alone or finding someone else to share with.

The person you’re sharing storage with is also in a position of trust regarding your belongings. As a rule, both parties using the storage unit have access at all times. As a result, your “roommate” might visit the unit while you’re not there. If you aren’t completely certain that the person you’re sharing with can be trusted, you’re in a bad arrangement and need to get out as soon as you can. Likewise, if you suspect that your storage partner is using your shared space for illegal activities, the fact that you had unlimited access to the site could implicate you in their crimes. Even if you rarely or never visit the unit, the authorities might assume you are involved.

Sharing storage with an unreliable friend is also potentially problematic. Most storage companies charge monthly rent, and it’s due on the specified date. Though many companies are willing to grant a short grace period, usually three or so days, the rent does have to be paid on time, or the unit might wind up with a padlock on it. If you have a friend who can’t be counted on to have the appropriate share of the rent on time every month, you could be the one left holding the bag for the full cost of the rent. In that case, you’re left with a full monthly rent payment, but only half of the storage you’re paying for.

These issues shouldn’t turn anyone away from sharing a rental unit with someone they do trust, but it’s essential to have that bond before signing up for storage. If you must share a unit, try to avoid recruiting partners out of the newspaper or on the internet, since you probably don’t know what you’re getting into. A stranger has no bond with you, and they may not feel bound to respect your space. Stick with friends whose character you trust, and only share with the ones you don’t mind taking responsibility for.

Make a (Written) Plan for Splitting the Rent

When two parties share a storage space, they might be tempted to keep things casual. If you’ve been friends for a long time, the general feeling is often that you can trust one another and everything can be handled on a casual, friendly basis. This is a very risky thing to do. No matter how close you are as friends, and however small your commitment is to the storage, getting a written agreement printed up and signed can save your friendship.

One of the best reasons to write up an agreement in advance is to prevent misunderstandings later. When you suggest splitting the rent 50-50, for example, your friend might not understand and assume that he’s paying less because “it’s only a few boxes.” On the other hand, you might make that arrangement if you are storing a lot of things and your friend really does just have a few items. Even then, it’s smart to lay out the terms of sharing in an enforceable contract. Though details vary between jurisdictions, any contract you want upheld by a court should include at least these items:

  • Details about the storage unit that precisely identify it. The address and unit number are usually enough for this.
  • The total cost of the rent, along with the exact amount each party should pay, how it should be paid (cash or check to you, payment made online, or split at the front desk each month), and the due date
  • Details about what can be stored in the unit, how much space each party is allowed and any agreements you have about access hours and conditions
  • Some consideration about how disputes are to be resolved, along with potential consequences of breaching the contract

While the courts in many areas are willing to uphold an informal contract, it’s always a good idea to run legal documents past a lawyer before you sign them. A one-hour consultation with an attorney may cost you some money, but it can also save you a fortune later on, when the bill from the storage company is overdue.

Come up with a Way to Clearly Split up the Space

It has been said that strong fences make good neighbors. Nowhere is this truer than inside of a shared storage unit. While you and your partner may have a very easy going relationship in person, and there may be no reason to believe either of you plans to abuse the sharing arrangement, some guidance early on can save you both a world of trouble when you’re allocating space.

Consider, for instance, if you rent a storage unit and just assume (but did not include in the contract) that the floor space is split evenly between you both. Your friend, however, may assume that you’re both free to stick as much stuff in the unit as you need to, and his share comes to 75% of the floor space. You are now paying half the rent and getting one-quarter of the room. Resolving this disagreement after the heavy boxes are stored can be contentious and make trouble for your relationship. Setting the boundaries from the start may save the arrangement and the friendship both.

One way to split up space is to simply put a line of painter’s tape down on the floor to divide the space roughly in half. One of you keeps your things on one side, while the other gets the opposite. This is simple, but it can be inefficient. Another method you can use is to mark each item or box with red or blue tape, to indicate who owns it, and then just stack it all as efficiently as possible to make maximum use of the space. If the two of you can think of another method that works, go ahead and include it in the written agreement.

Sharing a storage space can be a really good way to save money and trouble with your storage arrangements. It can also turn into the headache of a lifetime if you don’t have the right partner to share with. Even the best partnership can still go wrong if you don’t have a clear set of boundaries and a written plan that lays out your mutual obligations. Taking care and following these tips, however, can save you money and let you help a friend in need with a shared storage unit.