Are break-ins costing your storage facility money as well as customers? You may have state-of-the-art cameras and impenetrable electronic gate access, but somehow criminals are still burglarizing tenants' storage units. Although background checks may seem like an extraneous cost to your storage facility (as well as a deterrent to potential renters), it's becoming a necessity as criminals learn how to get past other traditional security features.

Several recent storage crimes were caused by tenants who would take advantage of low move-in rates (ex: first month for only $1!), would rent a storage unit for a small fee for one month, and would then proceed to break into other units after they had been given access as a renter. They slide past your gates and security cameras, because they've been given access to your storage facility already. Background checks can help prevent this kind of theft.

Keep in mind, you can actually use screening as a selling point for potential tenants; if customers seem hesitant, let them know you're not looking for perfect citizens, just for past facility break-ins or other B&E charges to protect everyone's belongings.

How big of a problem are break-ins?

Despite all of the security features out there, self storage break ins are still a common problem, even among some of the larger, corporate companies; background checks ensure another security layer is added to the mix.

For instance, in 2011, CBS 5 in San Jose conducted a study concerning break-ins at the Public Storage, Extra Space Storage and A-1 Storage locations in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose. Here are the results from the past two years:

  • Public Storage (27 facilities): 43 break-ins

  • Extra Space (6 facilities): 6 break-ins

  • A-1 Storage (5 facilities): 7 break-ins

Break-ins are terrible for public relations efforts; the last thing you want for your facility is to be on the 9 o'clock news as the victim of the latest break-in.

How to Conduct a Background Check

As a self storage manager, you have several options when it comes to screening your tenants. According to Inside Self Storage's blog post, checking courthouse records can be effective on a local level, but are costly in both terms of money and time it takes to receive; courthouses are limited to crimes that have been committed in the county, so if your tenant has broken into other storage facilities in a different city or state, these incidents won't come up.

However, there are several other ways to go about finding relevant background information on future tents. Internet databases pull information from several resources together to get the most complete past criminal information. The price is affordable and delivery is almost instantaneous; you can run the check while your customer waits in your office! If you're thinking background checks will cost your company too much money, consider this: database services such as Virtual Gumshoe, Criminal Searches, and Search Systems offer free and low cost criminal record search services. Us Search has basic and in-depth searches ranging from $19.95 to $59.95, depending on how much information you seek.

Before choosing a database to use, do a little comparison research, and call to ask questions about services offered to ensure you're happy before committing to a system; some may even offer a free trial, so you can tell if the results are applicable for your facility's needs.