storage unit

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.

Read More: Tips for Successful Yard Sales

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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  1. Jim Williams

    I have found lots of personal documents with SSN’s, anything personal like that hits my burn pit.

  2. Russ Budzban

    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.

    • Mary

      That’s So awesome of you to do what’s right…Holding on to those ashes I lost all my possessions about a year ago at Auction.Funny thing is my shit had only been in there may be 4 months at the most..with 2 months of that paid….Anyways I just wanted to Vent.God Bless You!

    • Wow Russ, I really respect you for doing that. I was happy to hear you say that. “Throw Away” ? Never in a million years could I do that. There truly are good people still left in this world and YOU are one of them.

  3. Chris G.

    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.

    • Karen

      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.

  4. Kathy Franklin

    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?

    • Chelsea HorneModerator

      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!

  5. LaTina Brown

    Some people will never ever know the struggle behind somebody’s auctioned unit!! I indeed would of tried and contact the person to give back personal information. I mean things happen in life!!! I am a victim of having my storage auctioned off recently and I tried begging the place about retrieving personal stuff like pictures. There are crooked people in the world who don’t think like everybody and to just turn things, yet they make someone’s life a living hell!! Especially if the storage facility is infested with rodents, it’s like the least you can try and do is work with the people!!

    • Lisa

      Exactly. We’ve been paying on 2 storage units but got behind 3 months on one and now I’m about to lose everything any day now. I’m totally heartbroken. So sorry you lost yours too.


    Hi I lost my storage at extra space storage, I have documents and pictures of my kids and specially my parents who past away within five years from today. I would pay for them back. and you can leave message how i can get them back. Thank you I would really appreciate it

    • StorageTreasures

      Hello Roseann. Unfortunately, StorageTreasures is unable to assist you with your personal effects. You would need to contact the facility for more information.

    • Lisa

      Hi Roseann, I am about to have my storage auctioned too. My husband told me we owe $1K because he hasn’t been able to pay it in 3 months and only gave me 3 days notice. I have so many sentimental items in there from my mother who has passed away and my son left his necklace with her ashes in there. Someone needs to change the law or something or maybe when the renter keeps in touch and explains their situation they could extend it a little longer. I could have the money in a week but they don’t care about me or my things. This is the saddest I’ve ever been since the day she passed. I am equally sorry you lost your things too. People like us fall on hard times and there obviously isn’t enough kind or understanding people in the world. If I had money I would buy units and give the owners a chance to get their things back because I’m not greedy and only out to make a buck. My mother taught me better than that.

  7. Ben

    I recently bought a storage unit and happened to find a couple titles. One to a truck and one to a trailer. What are the technicalities on this? I know you are supposed to return personal documents per auction rules, but also that there is no legal obligation to do so. I returned the documents in good faith they would be returned to the owner or at least destroyed. Since I purchased the unit do I technically own the vehicle and trailer? If I wanted to go through the legal system to get that court ordered to be signed over to me, would I be able to do that? I believe in karma and good deeds but i can’t help but wonder…

  8. Dulce Quinzel

    Yep. Lost all we had in storage back in 2016. Mother had too big of a heart and instead of paying the thing or in my case, seizing the opportunity afforded by my retirement fund, she’d rather pay some tramp to watch said tramp’s kid. The lady over it was extremely rude during too only giving her mere hours to come up with the money instead of days as usual. Lost family photos, a family bible and other keepsakes. What can you do though right?

  9. Cheryl Smith-Yisarel

    Lost my storage late 2018 from Public Storage at
    188 Roberts Street
    East Hartford CT

  10. Letitia

    I recently had a storage that I was delinquent on auctioned off. I requested that my family pictures be returned and my family history research also returned as it included the death certificate of my grandparent and great grandparent who was a WWI Vet. I was told they agreed to return the items but did not and stated they could not come back to town to return them BUT they could have left them like they did the unimportant boxes of paperwork. I feel like they intentionally kept the requested items when what they obtained form the storage had no value to them and they received items work more than what they paid for the storage.

  11. Shanta Watson

    Me in my husband storage was stolen and sold on this auction we lost everything our wedding pictures our kids games systems a lot of Sentimental things I had I would never get back that we worked so hard for 11 years worth of things we worked hard for is gone because the storage called USA storage on Belair rd in Baltimore md sold our stuff in told us it was stolen then they gave me 2500.00 dollars for my stuff just to drop everything against them I been trying to move on but it’s hard because I have lost a lot of memories that it’s so hard to get back if anyone have a heart please return my baby picture in pictures from my wedding my name is Shanta Watson in I pray everyday someone return my things please…….

  12. Lee Dixon

    I just recently found out that my belongings had been auctioned off on July 5th 2019 from Handy Storage in Homeland Park Anderson South Carolina I had my deceased grandmother and my deceased grandfather’s belongings my oldest son’s deceased great-grandmother’s belongings and my deceased son’s belongings in there I was not informed of the auction I was not told anything the gentleman told me that as long as I kept calling him and leaving messages that my stuff would be fine because he knew that I was homeless and then I’ve been battling cancer I had gone into surgery July 26th I had been calling him since the beginning of June left messages on his voicemail went by his office he was never there he never returned any calls when he finally answered he told me that my stuff was gone would not give me nothing didn’t keep any of my pictures or paperwork or nothing and now I have nothing left me and my children’s home and our belongings have been stolen last October what we had left was in the storage unit and now we have nothing. He told me that he was a gentleman and a man of his word and it turned out that he was no better than the rest of the low life people that try to corrupt and take advantage of people in bad situations

    • I recently lost my storage room as well. 9.16.19. Everything I owned was inside there everything. I lost my mother 5 years ago everything I had of hers was in that room that was the most devastating part I actually found the woman that bought the unit my son and I have begged her to please let us buy back the sentimental things if nothing else and my personal documents. I had seen some of my belongings posted on Facebook that she was selling everything by the time I got around to her she told me she had my sentimental things gave me a number what she wanted for me to buy back got the money for now she’s just giving me the runaround. Losing my mother’s things I’m sick over it I’ll never get over it people like her and others at by units like that knowing their sentimental things in there especially when that previous owner contact them and they do you like that I hope Karma comes around to all of them. These people that buy storage rooms they feed off of others misfortune and pain.

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