7 On Your Side: How to protect yourself from storage unit damage

    (Photo: ABC7)

    Two years after renting a storage unit and putting most of everything that they own in it, Lisa and Alvaro Lynflatt are still trying to figure out how to recover.

    "I spent all that money for my wedding dress...I still have spick and spatches of mold on my wedding dress," said Lisa. "We lost $8,000.00"

    The newlywed couple and their young family had moved to the DC area. In transition, they put their belongings in a local storage unit that was advertised to be climate controlled.

    Three months later, they opened their unit.

    "The mold was coming down the walls," said Lisa.

    Former Executive Director of Call for Action Ed Bartholme explains the reality of what most storage companies are really charging their customers.

    "Storage companies are charging extra for units that are billed as climate controlled. But in reality, it's not guarantee that things won't go wrong," said Bartholme.

    The Self-Storage Association says more than $30 million of us -- 1 in 10 Americans -- are renting storage units; and the numbers keep growing.

    And so are the number of cases of people who's belongings are ruined inside storage units. Tens of thousands of dollars lost every year.

    A man, who asked ABC7 to protect his identity, and his wife were shocked when they found water and mold growing over everything inside their Prince George's County unit. Their contract with the storage company included a $270/month rental fee and a $2,000 insurance policy.

    He rented a climate controlled unit, but right in there within the fine print of the contract, it reads mold is not covered. He claims he lost $10,000.

    "People are storing their things in rental facilities and are getting screwed in the end," he said.

    William Walker found mold in his Woodbridge unit, with an estimated $8,000 of his belongings inside. The insurance offered by the storage facility paid $250 for fungus or mold damage, with a $100 deductible.

    "What good is that? And there is not regulatory body that regulates these self-storage units," said Walker.

    With no federal regulations in place, Prince George's County Councilmember Jolene Ivey says she is crafting legislation to protect consumers in her county.

    'Now that I know there is a little to no regulation and oversight, it's a problem that we definitely need to address," said Ivey.

    The Self-Storage Association says 85 percent of storage units are owned by small companies, so buyers need to read their contracts carefully. Get insurance to cover the full value of your items and to look to see if you're covered by homeowners or credit card insurance.

    And never store expensive or priceless items in a unit.

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