When a storage unit tenant goes delinquent on payments, the facility owner takes possession of the unit’s contents. Auctions free up rental space and allow the owner to generate funds to make up for lost revenue.
Before listing a unit online or holding an in-person auction, it behooves the facility owner to inspect the unit. This protects them and bidders from potentially unpleasant surprises, and allows them to showcase big-ticket items to woo bidders. If a storage facility owner finds personal documents containing sensitive information, they are under no legal obligation to safeguard, return or destroy the documents. However, it’s still advisable to try those courses of action in order to avoid potential lawsuits.
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Once you win an auction, you become the owner of a storage container’s contents. It’s possible both the former tenant and the facility owner overlooked sensitive documents. If you win a unit containing ceiling-high stacks of documents and papers, you might be tempted to take a cursory glance and then trash or recycle them. Consider shredding them instead. The law doesn’t say you have to, but it’s kind of a “do unto others” situation. You wouldn’t want someone stumbling across your SSN and treating it carelessly.
For documents with both sentimental and legal value, such as birth certificates or diplomas, consider trying to return them to the former tenant. But, if you can’t track them down, rest assured they can get another copy if they need it.
Bottom line? Don’t put sensitive personal documents in a self-storage unit, and if you must, don’t forget about them!
What if you find much sought after celebrity memorabilia in a stack of documents? Well, just look at what happened with The Beach Boys, who sued and lost against a storage unit buyer. We’re not saying “finders, keepers” but there is some precedent for such items being considered a fair find.
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