HOUSTON - Many of us put furniture and precious items in storage units. However, what if rodents get in and damage your belongings? Who's responsible?
"I have white furniture, and rat feces and rat urine all over my white furniture," said Sheila Josey.
That's how she says she found her furniture in a unit at Public Storage at 22559 Highway 59 North in Kingwood.
"I’ve called the 800 number and left messages over and over again," said Josey. "One said she was going to give me a credit for this month for the issues I’m having, but I called and found out the credit was declined."
We reached out to the facility and the Public Storage corporate office several times for comment but never heard back.
FOX 26 Senior Legal Analyst Chris Tritico tells us it's usually the renter that's responsible for damage in a storage unit.
"If there’s a tornado or a fire, or in this instance, if rats get in there and damage your property that you're storing in there, you have to be responsible for getting it repaired," explained Tritico. "So you have to get your own insurance to cover those items."
Josey's contract states: "All personal property is stored by the occupant at occupant’s sole risk, insurance is occupant’s sole responsibility."
But Josey believes a facility should be responsible for controlling pests.
"It’s not like it’s an outside unit," she said. "It’s inside."
A renter can sue a storage facility for negligence, Tritico explains, "but you would then have to prove the owner didn’t take reasonable steps to keep the pests out."
A good deal of storage unit insurance policies doesn't cover pests, or limit coverage, like Orange Door which reads, "$250 of coverage is provided for damage caused by Vermin."
Storage units may be covered by a homeowner's or renter's insurance policy, or can be added for about $5 to $20 a month. However, the policy must specify whether it covers pests.
"I would like to be compensated for my loss," said Josey. "I’ve been paying them a monthly fee, and they should have some type of responsibility with having rats on the property."
To protect your items in storage, you can rent a sealed unit. Also, make sure upholstered furniture, mattresses, and bedding are wrapped in plastic and keep precious things in airtight containers. You can also use rodent bait or traps, or set out cotton balls dipped in peppermint oil to repel them.