Heated self-storage units are a plus to any renter who has some items that need to be kept at room temperature all year long. However, there are some common issues that proprietors of heated storage units often experience. The first is squatters—people who illegally use the units as heated homes in the colder months. The second includes animal hoarders—people who keep and/or breed animals in the units because they think these units are the perfect solution for housing the excess number of pets they own. To avoid both of these issues, here is what you can do legally to protect yourself and keep your heated units clean and safe for every renter's use.
Security Cameras and Recorded Footage
The best and most legal option to catching squatters and animal hoarders is with the use of security cameras and recorded footage. If you review the footage daily, you will be able to see who shows up to which unit or units and does not come back out all night or stays for a time (long enough to feed several caged animals) and then leaves. If you suspect, by viewing the footage, that there may be violations of city codes or your own rental agreement based on what you see in the footage, you may enter the unit to do a visual sweep. Just so it is on the up-and-up legally, have a police officer with you at the time you open the unit.
Clauses in the Rental Agreement
You can write a clause into your rental contracts that fit with your state's laws regarding landlord's rights to check the premises. That said, this clause would allow you to enter a storage unit when there is suspicious activity reported. When you have a clause like this in the rental agreement, it protects you whether or not you have a police officer with you when you open a storage unit. Then, if you spot anything out of the ordinary (e.g., dozens of caged animals or what looks like a carefully made up one-bedroom apartment) you can legally evict that tenant without police force backing you.
Request a Change of Locks for All Tenants and Spare Keys to Be Stored in the Office
When you request that all of your storage unit tenants change the locks on their units and store the spare keys to the locks in the office, it becomes "implied consent" for you to search a unit when you need to. Any tenant who does not comply in a timely manner can have their locks cut off and have the storage unit checked to make sure it is still compliant with building codes. This is another legal means to prevent squatters and animal hoarders