[2024] How to Handle a Problem Tenant at your Storage Facility

January 12, 2024

4 min

Problem tenants are an unpleasant and unavoidable part of working in self storage. A rude tenant can leave a bad review, and bad reviews can jeopardize your investment. 

Knowing what to do can be more difficult than the confrontations themselves. We know that dealing with hot heads isn’t anyone’s ideal work day, but we’re here to take off some of that stress! 

Here are some strategies you can use to handle problem tenants and turn their temporary annoyance into a long-term, loyal, back-and-forth relationship.

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Get Everyone On Board Right from the Start

Good communication is the most effective way to avoid annoying or problematic tenants.

Make your policies clear right off the bat and let it be known you’re not kidding around! 

Get not only your tenants but also your entire team rowing the same boat. Everyone involved should know when and how to solve common issues (like refunds), what incentives they can offer, and what information to communicate.

When your team is prepared for problem tenants the migraine becomes downgraded to a headache. When you hire a new employee, train them on tense situations before throwing them into job. You and your employee will be glad you did, and you might just avoid a yelling match!

Additionally, make sure you’re holding regular meetings that keep everyone updated on the policies. Setting regular, clear expectations can prevent disputes down the road and keep your team on the same page. 


Dealing With Tenants Who Are Rude

You will regularly come across difficult, rude, and unsympathetic tenants. Sometimes they’ll be right, and others they’ll be wrong. Sometimes things are just entirely out of your control! 

While you can’t protect your property from the occasional and inevitable climatic, environmental, architectural, or pest-based problems, you can deal with your problem tenants with positivity! 

Remember, they’re probably having a bad day too. The best way to diffuse tension is to respond with kindness and patience!

Here are a few ways to respond to rude tenants:

  • Let your customer rage, rant, and stomp around without taking it personally. Make sure that they feel heard without getting defensive – remember, you don’t want to lose a tenant.
  • Stick to the facts as opposed to making emotional or defensive statements in response. Offer reassurance, a reasonable explanation, and a way to get in touch with the right people – if that isn’t you.
  • Realize that there is a fine line between venting frustration and abuse– never tolerate unnecessary violence, verbal abuse, harassment, or aggression.
  • Remember that you’re in control of how you respond whether that’s ending a lease or responding in quiet kindness.

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Dealing With Tenants Who “Can’t” Pay

If a tenant regularly fails to pay the rent then it could be time to stop playing the nice guy.

Most people who sign up for a lease agreement are serious about it and try to pay their dues on time. The average tenant you’ll work with isn’t a delinquent or scam artist - even when it feels like the late payments are piling up. 

Not doing so due to ‘hospitalization’ or ‘vacationing trips’ are more often than not excuses. Particularly because payment options have become more and more accessible over time, with options like automated payment.

Make it easy for your tenants to pay by offering the ability to make payments and sign up for autopay through your website.

How you deal with tenants who ‘can’t pay’:

  • Stay strict about your no-delayed-payment policy right from the start.
  • Feel free to send the tenant a lien notice at the first sign of non-payment, or delayed payment.
  • Don’t work hard to get the tenants to pay! It sounds harsh, but anyone who wants to pay will do so. Just collect the late and lien fees, don’t listen to excuses.
  • Make it easy to pay you, so there are no excuses. Offer payment gateways in person, over the phone, online, and mail.
  • Use your best judgement on when to give someone empathy, but don’t be foolish.

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Tenants Who Want To Live In a Storage Unit

Self storage is notorious for giving you all the space of a studio apartment for a quarter of the price. So, it’s hardly a surprise that more and more economically struggling people are choosing to live in a storage unit.

However, over the years, this has resulted in some seriously dangerous consequences, legally as well as health-wise. Any seasoned operator knows that live-in tenants are a nightmare!

If you want to avoid live-in renters, here are a few things that you can do.

How to deal with live-in self storage tenants:

  • Make your policy clear on your website and with signange on your facility. Give them no excuse to say that they didn’t know.
  • Keep your security tight, video logs checked, and staff vigilant. Schedule regular check-ups and keep track of the video recordings of your gate log.
  • Be compassionate; they’re probably genuinely struggling to make ends meet. Make them understand that storage units are unsafe to live in because they lack basic necessities present in apartments including plumbing and temperature regulation.
  • Realize that such live-in arrangements could seriously put you at risk of legal liabilities– even if it may seem monetarily enticing at the moment.
  • Think about how your self storage facility needs to be safe and secure for non-live-in renter’s properties and valuables -- a live-in arrangement could pose a serious threat to your reputation as a storage unit owner.

Remember: taking a stance doesn’t make you a bad person.

Many of the points mentioned above require you to take a stand, be strict and upfront – and that doesn’t come naturally to everybody.

Being a little harsh to protect your business does not make you a bad person – and in the future, you can look for straightforward customers.

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StoragePug is a modern marketing company for self storage. We create intelligent marketing websites that allow you to rent units & take payments through your facility’s website.


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