In Arizona, and across the country, unexplained and unpredictable fees and price increases for self-storage units are outrageous and extremely upsetting to many. People rent storage units for a variety of reasons. Students, military, snowbirds, recently divorced people and others may need a place to put their belongings while they figure out a permanent location. Some get sucked in by promotions, only to find out they are at the mercy of the storage facility concerning a price increase in any given month. Storage facility operators know that it may be harder to move contents than it is for customers to absorb additional fees.

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In Arizona, there are no state or municipal laws that restrict fees charged by storage facilities. However, Arizona law does permit self-storage facilities to place a lien on the personal contents stored. This means that the personal contents stored in the unit can be sold to satisfy the debt if the occupant is in default on rent. The same law allows self-storage facilities to charge late fees and require insurance in addition to the monthly cost of the unit itself.

Marc Lamber is a public safety advocate and Martindale Hubbell AV Preeminent-rated trial attorney and a partner at Fennemore.

Looking at examples of contracts from self-storage facilities operating in Arizona, the self-storage businesses clearly have the upper hand when it comes to fees. In one case, the contract states that “prices and offers are subject to change at any time and without notice of change.” In another instance, the contract boldly says, “…We do not warrant that specifications or pricing on the (unit) is complete, accurate, reliable, current, or error-free.”

It’s important to know that pricing for self-storage units is usually based on the size, availability of space, whether the unit is climate controlled and market demand, among other factors. In most instances, contracts are month-to-month and may be tied to a teaser rate for a limited time.

There are some tips to remember when customers are shopping for self-storage:

• If a promotional rate is offered, understand how long it will last and whether future months will fluctuate in price.

• Attempt to negotiate a flat monthly fee for a certain number of months, if possible.

• Do some homework on the fees charged for the same sized unit across town and see if the facility in a more desired location will price match.

• Think about the value of the items placed in storage. Does storage of those items justify the fees likely to be charged over time?

• See if same facility has a smaller, better priced unit that will be acceptable if fees go up.

As the holidays approach, many would rather be spending their extra cash on gifts and not unpredictable self-storage fees. Be smart, do some homework, read the fine print of the contract and try to negotiate a fixed fee for a certain length of time for self-storage.

Author: Marc Lamber is a Martindale Hubbell AV Preeminent-rated trial attorney and consumer advocate. A director at Fennemore, Lamber chairs the Personal Injury Practice Group and has been featured in national and local media, including the Arizona RepublicUSA Today, ABC News, The Wall Street JournalForbes, the ABA Journal and many others.