The lease agreement (or rental contract) is a critical part of the self-storage operation’s risk management program and the most critical document executed between the business and the tenant in terms of protecting the facility’s interests. The lease agreement formally establishes the relationship between the facility and the tenant, and its wording is of the utmost importance.
Will an executed agreement prevent someone from filing a lawsuit or insurance claim against a self-storage business? Not a chance. However, a well-written contract that has been properly vetted by an attorney can go a long way toward mitigating the severity of the outcome of these types of actions. A poorly worded lease agreement can have the opposite effect, leaving the business owner exposed to negative outcomes from liability claims. In fact, this is one of the most common challenges encountered by claims adjusters working with self-storage businesses.
Elements of a Self-Storage Lease Agreement
While there is no standardized self-storage lease agreement, the key elements listed below should be included at a minimum.
- Hold Harmless Agreement – States that the facility is not responsible for damage caused by the actions of the tenant or other tenants.
- Lien Sale Laws/Default and Remedies – References the state’s lien sale laws and asserts the facility’s right to seize and dispose of a tenant’s stored items in the event of default.
- Prohibition of Hazardous Materials Storage – Details the types of materials that are prohibited from being stored in a rented space.
- Prohibition/Limitation of Activities – Outlines specifically prohibited activities including smoking in rented spaces, use of heating devices or open flame, performing vehicle repairs on premises, and residing in a rented space.
- Limitation of Value – The maximum value of items stored in a rented space without approval.
- Evidence of Insurance – Explains that the facility has no responsibility for insuring tenants’ stored items, explains any proof of insurance requirement, and references the facility’s tenant insurance program.
It is vital that the facility lease agreement be reviewed by an attorney to ensure that these elements are included and to avoid creating exposures that could leave the self-storage business vulnerable to costly insurance claims and lawsuits.
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