What to Do With Important Documents Found in Storage Units

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.

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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6 thoughts on “What to Do With Important Documents Found in Storage Units

  1. They (owners) keep stuff all the time I have downloads of Numerous sales ads where they say car not included in sale , Trailor not included in sale or my personal favorite owner/management reserves the the right to remove or exclude any items from sale.
    Ummm no you don’t!!
    Do they really not know the legality of the sales or are they hoping that we don’t?

    1. Hello and thank you for your comment. Every state has different laws. With regards to vehicles if there is another lien on the car they cannot sell it, that goes for any motorized vehicle. Also, there are laws pertaining to firearms, drugs, and alcohol. If there is every something out of the ordinary that doesn’t seem right please contact us and we will do our best to work with the facility who posted the auction to understand the situation. StorageTreasures is the platform for which the facility conducts their auctions and they may have specific policies that are part of their lease agreements. To be sure, you can always reach out to the facility to ask questions, their phone number is listed on the Facility Homepage accessible from the Auction Details page by clicking on the Facility Name. I hope this helps! Have a nice day and good luck on your next auction win!

  2. I disagree with storage facilities staging units to WOOOOOOOO buyers…. I hate that.. wondering what else has been hidden.. that the storage place hid to raise the price, the door should be raised and the unit photographed as it is and left alone… just like live auctions…. the buyer should sort the important documents or burn them. There should never be a buyers question of the storage unit being staged… I WILL NEVER BID on a staged unit period… that is against the rules as far as I am concerned. No one should be past the edge of the door if they want my money for a unit. When I buy a unit, I buy everything in it, and I DO try to return personal pics, documents to the facility… sometimes they make it clear they have lost all contact with the tenant, so I destroy that stuff. This is not a TV show.. this is real life and real money and I do not want to wonder if something is missing that could have been in there or if it was a set up to try to get more money…. I will never do business again with that facility. PERIOD.

    1. I agree with Chris G. Facilities going through a unit should never be allowed nor should employees and their families be allowed to bid. I was bidding on 2 units and found out after winning one of them, I was bidding against an employees brother who was there when the photos were being taken. They had seen a locked metal box that was not visible in any pictures. The employee excitedly told me about how much money and how much valuables were in there. I couldn’t figure out why that 5×5 unit was going so high when it showed kid toys and bags of clothing.

  3. On my first unit I ever bought we found creamated ashes, I took them back to the storage unit that had the auction and was told they could not get in touch with the past renters. So I took the ashes to my church and was told by the pastor to throw them in the garbage. Needless to say they are still in my house and on day I will get the post hole digger out and give them a burial.

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