This information is based on the US market and may not apply to your location
Self Storage facilities are businesses composed of real estate or personal property containerization|cargo transit containers divided into Self Storage spaces that are renting|rented to tenants, usually on a monthly basis.
The term "Self Storage" is short for "self-service storage", and is also known as "mini storage" or "mini warehouse" (archaic). Self Storage facilities lease space to individuals, usually storing household goods, or to small businesses, usually storing excess inventory or archived records. The rented spaces, known as "units", are secured by the tenant's own lock and key. Facility operators do not have casual access to the contents of the space unlike a professional warehouseman. A Self Storage operator never takes possession, care, custody or control of the contents of the storage rental space unless a lien is imposed as provided in Self Storage laws for non-payment of rent. Self Storage facility operators usually provide computer-controlled access to rental space areas and many use closed-circuit security cameras.
Self Storage today
About 50,000 Self Storage facilities have been developed in the United States on industrial and commercial land parcels, usually on three- to seven-acre properties. More recently, in many metropolitan cities where competition among storage companies is fierce, better parcels of land near residential and commercial areas are being converted into self-storage. Moving trucks and vans may also be available for rent when the facility includes a truck rental franchise. A few storage facilities allow the use of a truck for free or even send a truck to your nearby home or business as a move-in promotion.
Self Storage businesses lease a variety of unit sizes to residential and business customer/tenants. Popular unit sizes include 10x5 (10 feet wide by 5 feet deep) which is about the size of a large walk-in closet, 10x10 (the size of a child's bedroom), 10x20 (one-car garage), 15x20 and 20x20 (two-car garage). The storage units are typically windowless, walled with corrugated metal, and lockable by the renter. Chain-link fencing or wire mesh may function as a more secure ceiling than a suspended ceiling. Each unit is usually accessed by opening a roll-up metal door, which is usually about the same size as a one-car garage door. A controlled access facility may employ security guards, surveillance cameras, individual unit door alarms and some means of electronic gate access such as a keypad or prox card. A few facilities even use biometric thumbprint or hand scanners to ensure that access is granted only to those that rent.
In rural and suburban areas most facilities contain multiple single-story buildings with mostly drive-up units having natural ventilation, but which are not climate-controlled. These buildings are referred to as "traditional". Climate-controlled interior units are becoming more popular in suburban areas. In urban areas many facilities have multi-story buildings using elevators or freight lifts to move the goods to the upper floors. These facilities are often climate-controlled since they have mostly, if not all, interior units. Warehouses or grocery stores are sometimes converted into Self Storage facilities. Loading docks are sometimes provided on the ground floor. Also, complimentary rolling carts or moving dollies are sometimes provided to help the customers carry items to their units. Urban Self Storage facilities might contain only a few floors in a much larger building; there are successful Self Storage businesses cohabitating with light manufacturing, office tenants and even a public school
The most current industry customer surveys indicate that 44% of renters are consumers who are moving from one home to another, 31% need more space than is in their homes, 7% are students or military, and 18% are businesses.
Customers are generally allowed to store any non-hazardous, non-toxic, non-perishable material in the facility: personal items, furniture, motorcycles, overstocked retail wares, etc. Customers are prohibited from sleeping or otherwise living in the room. If the customer fails to pay the rent, a lien is placed on the customer's goods and they are sold at auction. The storage facility lien rights are codified in most states. The customer is still responsible for any rent and fees due if the auction does not clear their balance. (i.e. California Self-Service Storage Facility Act, Business & Professions code Sec 21700 et seq.)
Many national & state trade associations were formed in the mid 1970's is the official web site of the Self Storage Association.
Self Storage worldwide
According to a report (1st June 2006) by Mintel Consulting and in collaboration with the Self Storage Association of the United Kingdom space available for rental in the USA is approximately 1.6 billion rentable square feet, against 22 million rentable square feet in Australia and around 20 million in the United Kingdom. The report also states that there are around 41000 facilities in the USA, 1000 in Australia and around 600 in the United Kingdom.
Portable storage companies supply storage containers for use in storage and moving residential goods. Portable storage containers and company delivery trucks are personal property, not "real estate" property, the definition of Self Storage facilities in state Self Storage facility acts. It is a new concept where rented storage containers are delivered to the customer's residence and the customer loads and packs rather than company workers. The unit can then be left there or delivered to a central warehouse for later customer access and/or return. It is safer and more private than conventional Self Storage and the client can load or unload at their leisure.
Climate-controlled storage and cold storage
Some facilities are climate controlled to prevent mold or mildew and other moisture problems. Humidity control is more important for storage than temperature control. A common setting for the facility humidistat is a maximum relative humidity of 50%, while a common temperature range for the thermostat is 50 to 80 degrees. A few facilities have even added areas for Self Storage of goods with special needs, such as wine.
A cold storage facility provides rooms with very low temperature suitable for the storage of perishable items like meat and vegetables. Many of these are left over from the days when most freight was shipped via railroad; with the advent of refrigerated trucking, door-to-door cold transportation became common.
In the United States, most Self Storage facilities hold storage auctions or lien sales to vacate non-paying tenants according to their enforcement rights that are outlined within the laws of each state. In The United States there are 40,000 plus Self Storage facilities, out of these 40,000 plus Self Storage facilities there are an average 15,000 facilities that will hold a storage auction or lien sale in any given month. These auctions are opened to the general public, with most bidders buying for the purpose of reselling for profit. Some people consider storage auctions as a good way to buy cheap secondhand merchandise for resale.
As part of another business
Less formal public storage might be a found in locker rooms, cloak rooms, left luggage areas, bicycle lockers, train stations, amusement parks (especially water parks), and airports. It is of note though that since September 11, 2001, storage in these small kiosks is no longer allowed at American airports, per federal law. There may be an attendant or an automated vending machine to collect the fee and control access, or it may simply require dropping a few coins into a slot to allow a key to be removed locking a compartment. At a swimming pool or sauna the key will be attached to a wrist or ankle strap. These types of storage are typically not related to a distinct self-storage business, being rather ancillary services provided as part of another business.