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Think you’re an access control expert? If you’ve read our blog post about choosing the right access control tools for your facility, you’re probably up to date on the latest security trends in self storage. Right now, many owners and operators are upgrading their access control tools to be cloud-based, meaning no data is stored on an on-site computer. Heck, you don’t even need a computer - you can see who is accessing your property, when, and where right from your tablet or smartphone, anywhere in the world. Whether you’re looking to install a new keypad and access control system or you’re just getting started with your first self storage investment, take this short quiz to test your knowledge and learn a little more about access control in self storage. Ready to get started?
As a self storage owner, you have the law on your side prohibiting anyone from living in storage units. It is illegal for both humans and animals to inhabit storage units, and for good reason: storage units are very unsafe to live in. Units don’t meet building, ventilation, fire safety, or plumbing codes for occupancy, and tenants could become trapped inside in the event of a fire or gas leak. It’s also likely that your lease specifies that tenants may not live in their storage unit, and when a tenant violates their lease, they are guilty of a civil offense.
As an owner of the business, you can charge a tenant who is living in their unit with criminal trespassing. While a tenant who has paid his or her rent is certainly allowed access during normal business hours, a tenant who tries to enter the premises before or after your normal business hours without permission is considered a trespasser by law. Even if you have a 24-hour access facility, if a tenant in good standing is accessing your property for reasons that fall outside of their rental agreement (like loitering or sleeping in their unit), they can also be charged with criminal trespassing.
So what should you do if you find a tenant living in their unit? First, immediately call the police. Confronting a live-in tenant can become a very dangerous situation, so it’s important to have the police there for backup. Consider why the tenant may be living in their storage unit - they may be hiding illegal activity, under the influence of drugs, avoiding the police, or just desperate for shelter. It’s crucial to have police there to protect you just in case they become aggressive or violent when asked to vacate the property, and you’ll need to report the incident to the police anyway if you want to press charges.
A: Slide gates
B: Swing gates
C: Vertical pivot gates
D: Barrier arm gates
Answer: A: Slide gates
Many storage facilities are fenced with automated gates that are triggered to open by keypads. The most popular type of self storage facility gate is a slide gate, which is an automated gate that slides back and forth along the fence seamlessly when opening and closing. Check out the example below to see a slide gate in action:
Slide gates are popular because they take up less space than swing gates when opening and closing, and they’re simpler to troubleshoot than vertical pivot gates. Since they have wheels, slide gates can be easily opened and closed even when the power is out. While they are typically more expensive and noisier than other self storage gates, they are easy to operate once installed. Check out this blog post to learn more about different types of automated gates for your self storage facility and find the right gate for your property’s unique needs.
A: Bluetooth and electronic unit locks
B: Individual unit alarms
C: Automated overlocks
D: All of the above
Answer: D: All of the above
Unmanned facilities don’t necessarily even need to have access control security - many successful rural facilities are very secure without being fenced or requiring tenants to enter an access code. There are tons of options for storage owners looking to run a safe and secure unmanned storage facility, even without a fence. For example, bluetooth unit locks, also called smart storage units, bring access control down to the unit. Smart storage units allow tenants to open their storage unit with a bluetooth key fob or with their smartphone, and provide infrared monitoring inside the unit to protect against break-ins. With bluetooth enabled locks built into the unit door, renters don’t even need to put a padlock or disc lock on their unit to secure it, and many owners find an exterior fence with access control to be an unnecessary layer since the units themselves have individualized access control and security.
For a lower price tag, storage owners can also look at automating unit access for tenants with tools like automated overlocks and individual unit alarms. One of the newest automated overlocks on the market is the DaVinci Lock, which uses a standard combination lock with encrypted serial coding to automatically overlock units. When a delinquent tenant discovers their unit is overlocked, they follow instructions to pay their bill in order to get the code to unlock their unit. In addition to automated overlocks, unmanned facilities can take access control and security a step further by implementing unit alarms. Unit alarms are easy to find through many security system providers and can be wired or wireless. While almost all door alarms are triggered by vandalism to the locking mechanism of the unit, some of them can also detect a break-in through the unit walls and send an alert to the property owner.
Active service military tenants get special treatment when it comes to delinquency, so they can’t be locked out for failure to pay. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects tenants who are serving their country from being foreclosed upon while they are on active duty, even if they have failed to pay rent or plan accordingly for their absence. The SCRA ensures that military tenants won’t have their units foreclosed upon or sold at auction while in active service, and the legal verbiage reads as follows:
(1) Limitation on foreclosure or enforcement
Being in the service does not mean free rent, it simply means that military members can’t lose their stuff while they’re active duty. Storage owners are allowed to have a lien on an unpaid military unit, but they are not allowed to act on the lien by overlocking the tenant’s unit, denying the tenant access, putting the unit up for auction, selling their items, or foreclosing on the unit. For this reason, many modern facility management software tools allow facility managers to record detailed information on military tenants and list them as military lockout exempt in the system to protect the unit from accidentally going to auction. The military tenant is still responsible for all rent incurred while they’re on active duty, but late fees can often be waived depending on their SCRA protections. Because of this, it’s important to always check with a lawyer before taking lien action on a military tenant’s rental to ensure you’re in the right.
Cloud-based access control systems do not require an on-site computer for data sync from the gate controller to your facility management software. Contrastingly, access control systems that are not cloud-based do require an on-site computer (usually a Windows computer) to be actively running the access control software and connected to the internet so that the system can sync with the facility management software.
Why is sync with facility management software necessary? This is how your access control keypad determines who to allow into the facility (paid-up tenants, managers, and the like) and when to restrict access (delinquent tenants, after business hours, holidays, etc.). But systems that require on-site computers can be a headache for owners and managers, as they often run software updates, reboot, and restart at odd hours of the day while running the access control software, causing failure to sync with the gate and facility management software and leaving tenants stuck outside your facility unable to get in. Plus, if you're a Mac person, it can be annoying having to deal with PC issues.
So what's the solution? Enter the cloud. Cloud-based systems are faster and allow for automatic text notifications, so they’re often preferred by tenants. Plus, they’re perfect for unmanned facilities: owners and managers can manage all facility gate activity and see tenant access histories on any device or while working remotely. More and more storage operators are simplifying their security by upgrading to a modern, cloud-based access control system or building new storage facilities that are designed with modern tech tools in mind.
If you got 100%, congratulations! You’re a self storage access control expert. If you missed a few, that’s okay, too. Check out all of our resources on self storage security and access control tools to learn more:
Want to hear from other owners and operators what access control tools work for them? Check out Self Storage Talk for updates from real storage owners about what’s working and what they wish they had done differently when it comes to their facility’s access control and security.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this blog post, you may also like: Quiz: How much do you know about self storage legislation?, Quiz: Is RV storage right for your facility? and Quiz: Do you need a blog for your self storage website?