Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Does your homeowner’s insurance cover theft from your storage unit? The answer might surprise you.

There’s a reality show on A&E about people who bid – sight unseen – 
on the contents of abandoned storage units. Yep, that's a thing.  

Self-storage is a booming business these days, according to Bloomberg. New warehouses are being built at a record pace to store Americans’ extra belongings. Nearly 10 percent of Americans rented a storage unit in 2015, according to Sparefoot.com, a storage unit comparison site. There are even luxury storage units to store your vintage car collection or to give you another space to hang out in.

Before you rent a storage unit, luxury or otherwise, you should be thinking about what happens if your belongings are damaged or stolen.

Generally, if your homeowner or renter policy covers contents that you store offsite--say, at a storage unit--they limit the coverage to a certain dollar amount, and they do not cover theft from the storage unit. That’s really important information to know before you fill a storage unit full of your belongings.

It may not be a good idea to store items of high value, like art, antiques, jewelry, collectibles, furniture or rugs, in a storage unit. Unless you have had the items appraised and insured for those amounts, it’s likely the dollar limits on your coverage will not be enough to pay to replace your possessions if they are damaged.

If you need to store valuables of that nature somewhere other than your home, talk to your agent or insurance company.

Most storage unit businesses offer their own insurance policies, but are they a good deal? That depends on if you already have coverage through a renter’s or homeowner policy. If not, read the policy offered by the storage company. What does it cover? What does it not cover? What is the dollar limit for the coverage? Is there a time limit for the coverage? What is the deductible on the policy?

Storage businesses that sell these policies are required to be licensed insurance producers. That means if you have trouble, you can file a complaint with us.

Here are some tips if you rent a storage unit:
  • Read your policy or talk to your agent or insurer about covering any contents you are storing anywhere other than your residence
  • If your renter’s or homeowner policy does cover offsite storage, there may be limits on:
    • The dollar amount of coverage.
    • How long things in storage will be covered – think temporary, not long-term or indefinite storage.
    • The types of losses that will be covered – theft likely is not covered.
  • Create an inventory of what you are keeping in storage. It can be as basic as taking photos with your phone, or you can download an app from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, your insurer, or some other app. Or, you can make a list that you store somewhere safe. 
Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.