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If you have run out of storage space in the basement, office or attic, a self-storage unit can be a good solution. Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to understand a storage facility's policies before renting units.

Some people need storage only temporarily — when they are remodeling, for example. Others have items to store that they do not use regularly. Or maybe they are selling a house and they need to de-clutter it while it is being shown to prospective buyers — or store clutter until they find a new home.

BBB received more than 1,784 complaints last year about storage units. In many cases, customers said they were unable to access their storage units after paying a deposit, their belongings were damaged while in the units or, in a few cases, items were taken from the units without their knowledge.

BBB has identified seven factors to consider when renting storage units:

1. Cost. To make sure you are paying a reasonable amount, get written estimates from at least three facilities before renting. In addition to a monthly fee, costs can include storage preparation, padding, packing or transportation. There can be extra options, such as electricity, pest control or insurance. Make sure you understand due dates, any minimum time to rent and contract renewal dates.

2. Size. What units are available? Is there a maximum weight limit for unit contents? Can you stack stored materials to the unit's ceiling?

3. Climate. Consider the general climate and whether your belongings could be damaged by water or mold. You may want to consider a climate-controlled unit.

4. Insurance. Make sure your things are insured for theft, fire, water or other damage. You may be able to buy insurance from the storage facility or another source. Some homeowners' policies may cover self-storage. Check with your agent on what is covered.

5. Safety. How is the unit secured? Does the door have a lock built in or do you need a heavy-duty padlock? Are there surveillance cameras on the property? Does the facility restrict access to renters or do strangers have access to the property? Is there an emergency phone number you can call when the facility office is closed?

6. Contract. Get everything in writing. Read and understand the contract and payment terms. Make sure the facility can get in touch with you in case there is a problem with your unit or payment.

7. Access. What are the hours and any charges for accessing your unit? Is there adequate parking? How close can you park to the unit? Does the facility offer dollies or hand trucks to help you move your belongings in and out of the unit? Will your belongings fit through the doorway and inside the unit?

Before you do business with any company, check its BBB Business Profile by calling 573-886-8965 or going to midmobbb.org.

Sean Spence is the Mid-Missouri regional director for Better Business Bureau.

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