SPRINGFIELD, Mo. According to the Better Business Bureau, there were over 1,800 complaints filed nationwide last year against self storage facilities including 34 in the Springfield area.
That's why the BBB is warning the public that you should do some background checking before renting a storage unit.
One place to start is by going to their website at bbb.org.
BBB has business profiles on thousands of storage facilities, including customer reviews, complaints and their resolution, and a rating from A+ to F. This information can give you important insight into what to consider when you visit a facility.
"I think the biggest thing misconception is that people think all self storages are created equal and they're not," said Mark Frees, a Property Manager for Wooten Co. which owns a pair of storage facilities in the Springfield area.
"There's some bad companies out there," added Stephanie Garland, the BBB Springfield Regional Director. "Unfortunately if you're not doing your research ahead of time you can lose thousands of dollars literally in terms of your furniture getting moldy, not being able to access your storage unit and having higher cost fees than you expected."
We visited a pair of facilities who have A-plus ratings from the BBB: Bees Self Storage in Republic, one of two storage places owned b Doug Johnson, and the James River Self Storage, one of two places owned by the Wooten Company.
Both storage businesses have seen their fair share of weird things showing up in their units.
"It caught me a little off-guard when a guy told me he had a stuffed alligator in his unit," Shadd Delmez, the manger of the James River Self Storage. "I told him as long as it's stuffed we're O.K. and I'm glad you told me about that first before I opened your door someday and found that alligator."
"I found rocks in some units which I couldn't understand," said Johnson. "Their treasure is junk to me and now they pay on it every month. Why would they keep a rock in a unit?"
But no matter what you choose to store away, there are some things you need to consider before you pick a storage facility.
"The biggest thing I would tell people is to compare prices and to look at safety," Johnson said. "Security is a big deal."
Those are among seven tips from the Better Business Bureau.
1.) Cost-to make sure you’re paying a reasonable amount, get written estimates from at least three facilities before renting. In addition to a monthly fee, costs can include storage preparation, padding, packing or transportation. There can be extra options, such as electricity, pest control or insurance. Make sure you understand due dates and any minimum time to rent or contract renewal dates.
2.) Size-what units are available? Is there a maximum weight limit for unit contents? Can you stack stored materials to the unit’s ceiling?
3.) Climate-consider the general climate and whether your belongings could be damaged by water or mold. You may want to consider a climate-controlled unit.
"You need to consider what kind of goods you're storing," Frees said. "So if you're storing something like furniture or documents that are really sensitive, we have climate controlled units here."
4.) Insurance-make sure your things are insured for theft, fire, water or other damage. You may be able to buy insurance from the storage facility or another source. Some homeowners’ policies may cover self-storage. Check with your agent on what is covered.
5.) Safety-how is the unit secured? Does the door have a lock built in or do you need a heavy-duty padlock? Are there surveillance cameras on the property? Does the facility restrict access to renters or do strangers have access to the property? Is there an emergency phone number you can reach when the facility office is closed?
6.) Contract-get everything in writing. Read and understand the contract and payment terms. Make sure the facility can get in touch with you in case there is a problem with your unit or payment.
7.) Access-what are the hours and any charges for accessing your unit? Is there adequate parking? How close can you park to the unit? Does the facility offer dollies or hand trucks to help you move your belongings in and out of the unit? Will your belongings fit through the doorway and inside the unit?
And one overall guide in making your decision?
"If you come in and it's clean and well kept that tells you a lot about the company who is operating it and what their standards are," Frees said.