Should You Provide Locks for Your Storage Units?

March 29, 2023

5 min

Do you supply the locks for your storage units, or do you have tenants bring in their own?

Some operators supply a lock with a rental. Other sell locks on site. There are also those that try to save money and trouble and just have their tenants bring in their own locks after renting a storage unit.

There are pros and cons to both options, but that doesn’t mean they’re both equally desirable.


Why What You Choose Matters

It might seem like an arbitrary or purely financial question at first glance.

If you supply locks for each self storage tenant, you are providing convenience for your customers at a slight cost to your facility.

If you require customers to bring in their own locks, you’re trading their convenience for cost savings on your end.

When it’s looked at this way, it doesn’t seem like a critical decision, does it? The chances that a customer will choose not to rent with you because they need to find their own storage unit lock seem slim. And if you sell locks in your office, that means they can just buy one with you and skip having to find one on their own.

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Don’t let how simple the math looks on the surface lead you astray: this choice matters even more than what security gate you choose for your facility. It matters to your customers.

Security is a top priority for your self storage customers. In fact, it ranks up there alongside convenience as one of the top two concerns they have.

This is relevant because relying on customers to bring their own locks just isn’t as secure.

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How Do Self Storage Operators Handle Storage Unit Locks?

  • “Bring Your Own Lock” Policies
  • Supplying Locks for Customers

These are the two most common ways that self storage owner operators currently handle the unit locking problem.

Each category has a subset or two, but these two umbrellas are the breakdown at a high level.

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Bring Your Own Lock Policies

It’s not uncommon at all to find out that an operator requires tenants to supply their own locks.

This is usually done to save money. It can also be a way to reduce a bit of the workload from managers as well as allow tenants to rent completely online without worrying about how you get their lock to them.

One solution to the convenience problem is to sell locks in your office. If you already sell or plan to sell moving and packing supplies, this is an easy solution.

Customers no longer need to fret about where they can find a suitable lock or which lock is best, and you get to save money by charging the tenant and even making a small profit on the lock sale.

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Supplying Locks for Customers

Supplying an adequate storage unit lock for your self storage customers creates a more reassuring and convenient experience for them.

Your customers probably aren’t experts on types of locks or security at self storage facilities. They likely won’t know what lock is good enough to secure a storage unit or where to find such a lock.

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You should know.

There is a way that some self storage owners mitigate the cost of supplying the lock, too: add it to the cost of the rental or as an extra fee on top of the rent.

By doing this, you supply a lock for your customers without having to sacrifice a little bit of money on every rental.

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Why Supplying a Storage Unit Lock is More Secure

Supplying a lock for your customers isn’t just a way to make their lives easier.

It’s also a better practice for security.

“Bring your own lock” policies aren’t just less convenient for customers. They also create security risks.

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Imagine that one of your customers brings a lock for their self storage unit per your policy. It’s not a very good lock. Maybe a basic padlock, a better fit for a school locker or other low-importance use than for locking up a storage unit. Or maybe it’s even a fairly heavy-duty padlock, but it’s still not up to standard for a storage unit.

It’s easy to cut because of an exposed shackle. Or it has an easily-obtained master key.

A break-in, no matter the reason, doesn’t look great for your storage facility. And it’s not just that storage unit at risk. A break-in at one storage unit could lead to the culprit cutting through the wall into adjacent units and clearing out entire blocks of storage units.

Your customers’ top two concerns are convenience and security, and a “bring your own lock” policy is a recipe for scoring low in both categories.

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What Are the Alternatives to Suppling Storage Unit Locks?

There’s one solution that avoids the problem entirely: electronic locks.

These might be Bluetooth locks or locks that are unlocked over the internet via a mobile app.

While it’s still technically supplying a lock, it’s a one-time purchase and creates many other advantages beyond either of the other two methods we’ve talked about so far.

The Advantages

  1. They don’t need to be replaced with every new tenant.
  2. You can send access codes or instructions for truly 100% online rentals.
  3. Overlocking unpaid storage units can be done easily and remotely.
  4. Much of this can be automated with the right integration.
  5. With the right software, you can track access to storage units or even remotely assist.
  6. They are generally more secure.

The Disadvantages

  1. There is some learning curve for managers and tenants compared to keys or codes.
  2. Maintenance increases.

Depending on your market and your specific customers, what works at your facility may differ from the experiences of other self storage owners.

We’ve painted a pretty dismal picture of bring your own lock policies here, but it’s entirely possible for you to be in a situation where it’s an adequate alternative. Likewise, modern electronic locks may not be the best solution for every facility.

Just remember to consider your customers and their experience and expectations with whatever choice you make at your storage facility.

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