What Happens to a Storage Unit When the Renter Dies


December 15th, 2016

When a person passes away, their belongings must be accounted for. Aside from their home, the person may have had items in storage that family members will also have to handle. So really, what happens to a storage unit when the renter dies? It happens more often than you might think!


When a unit’s renter passes away, the state treats this rental space as it would any other rental space, like an apartment. This means the unit’s contents become a part of the renter’s estate. While every case is unique depending on the unit’s contents, the renter’s wishes or requests, and other factors, there are two common situations that occur when a renter dies . . .

Situation A: The renter has given someone legal access to the storage unit.
This is the cleanest, most ideal situation. If a renter dies and has given a family member access to their storage unit in a will or other legal document, then that family member handles it the way he or she feels appropriate. Again, like an apartment or home rental, the person given access has the option to come claim the unit’s contents.

From this point, the family member handles it without interference from the facility or the legal system—they can keep the contents, sell the items, or even take over the unit and let the contents remain there. Until the unit is cleared, this family member must continue to pay its rent in order to avoid foreclosure.

Situation B: The renter has not given anyone access to the unit (or no one is available to gain access).
This situation is a little trickier. If the renter hasn’t give anyone access to the unit, it’s usually up to the legal system to decide what will happen. If family members are interested in keeping the contents (or at least having control over what happens to them), they can attempt to gain access to the unit. The courts consider these instances on individual bases, and the process can take some time. Once a family member gains access, return to Situation A.

If a family member cannot gain access to the unit or is unable to continue paying the unit’s rent, or if there is no person available to claim the contents, the unit will be foreclosed. Once this happens, the contents are usually sold at a foreclosure auction. Another possibility—though a much rarer one—is that the contents could be featured on a self-storage reality show like Storage Wars, where professional buyers purchase the contents hoping to turn a big profit.


Now you know exactly what happens to a storage unit when the renter dies! Surprised? Or did this confirm what you already knew?Looking to rent a secure, roomy, and accessible storage unit? Eastway Storage Center makes it easy for you. If you live in southwest Missouri, come check out our storage facilities. We have multiple unit sizes, ranging from cozy 5 x 10s to units large enough to store an RV. And if you have items sensitive to extreme temperatures, we’ve got you covered with climate-controlled units. Give us a call today at 417-864-7867. We would be happy to help you find the right storage unit for your needs.