Last Updated on September 30, 2023 by Louise Carter
Storage units are lockable spaces comparable in size to a bedroom. Consequently, you may wonder if it’s safe and legal to sleep in a storage unit for the night or on an ongoing basis.
Unfortunately, living in a storage unit is illegal, even temporarily. Owners of the storage unit or the building that houses it have legal responsibility for user safety.
Sleeping in a storage unit is unsafe due to no windows, electricity, temperature regulation, or ventilation. There’s a ban on sleeping in a storage unit for health and safety reasons.
A storage unit won’t qualify as a legal residential address, so living there violates state law.
If you urgently need somewhere to sleep overnight, consider sleeping in your car as an alternative to a storage unit. It may not be comfortable, but it’s legal and usually less hazardous.
What Are You Allowed To Do in A Storage Unit?
As the name suggests, storage units are secure facilities commonly used to hold household possessions and business inventory awaiting dispatch.
Attempts to work or live in a unit aren’t legally permitted for health and safety reasons.
A storage unit won’t be considered a legal residence or business address, so even fitting a desk and computer may not be permitted.
Storage units are unsuitable for living or work because they usually lack the essentials, like running water, toilets, electricity, windows, and internet access.
If you regularly bring items to a storage unit and remove them, the facility staff are unlikely to pay much attention to you. Other uncharacteristic activities will likely be deemed more suspicious.
You may be asked to explain yourself to confirm you’re not violating the terms of the lease or contract.
Can You Legally Sleep in a Storage Unit?
Spending the night in a storage unit is illegal.
If a case is made that you slept in a storage unit and used it as unsanctioned accommodation, you may face legal action from the owner and an investigation from law enforcement.
The intent will likely be assessed based on your actions.
If an assessment of a storage unit reveals a mattress, bedding, or food and water, you’re unlikely to convince anybody that you ended up sleeping in the unit by mistake.
How Long Can I Stay in My Storage Unit?
Check the terms and conditions outlined by the storage unit company.
Some units may only permit you to use the facility during set hours, although most will allow you to remain in place as long as you need, assuming you’re using the unit for its intended purpose.
Don’t attempt to stay in a storage unit beyond the length of your contract. If you’ve signed a lease for 30 days, the unit will be assigned for assessment and cleaning on day 31.
Expect eviction and possible legal action if you and your belongings remain in place.
Can You Stay Overnight in A Storage Unit?
If the purpose for using a storage unit carries on overnight while you’re within your lease, you won’t necessarily violate the contract.
Expect the unit owners to investigate if you don’t leave the facility when night falls.
Suppose you purchased a full storage unit or inherited the unit’s contents from a deceased loved one. You may face a deadline to empty the unit or find documents.
If a staff member sees you doing this, they’ll likely let you continue once you explain.
If the storage unit owner has reason to believe you’re using it as living accommodation, the response will be unfavorable. You’ll be asked to leave the unit overnight.
Why Can’t You Sleep in A Storage Unit?
There are many reasons why sleeping in a storage unit is verboten. Common reasons include:
- The owners of the storage unit, or the facility the unit is housed within, will be legally responsible for your safety overnight.
- Sleeping in a storage unit will encourage eating, attracting vermin (rats, mice, etc.) and other pests.
- Having somebody stay in a storage unit overnight increases the risk of theft from other units.
Above all, storage units aren’t equipped for human habitation and fail to meet the minimum occupancy standards of most territories due to their lack of electricity and running water.
While living off-grid is legal in all 50 states, you’ll still be expected to pay taxes and have a recognized residential address. A storage unit won’t meet these basic legal requirements.
Is it Safe to Sleep in a Storage Unit?
The owners are legally responsible for the safety of anybody within the unit. This is one of the main reasons why spending the night there is illegal.
Temperature regulation will be a problem in a storage unit.
These facilities are rarely temperature-controlled, so they grow extremely hot during the summer. In the heart of winter, ambient temperatures may drop to an unsafe level.
Storage units also offer little ventilation. Your unit is unlikely to have windows due to logistics and security, and the air will become increasingly thin within a couple of hours.
During the day, you can rectify this by opening the door, but this won’t be an option overnight.
Many storage units aren’t intended to be opened from the inside.
If you find yourself locked in the unit overnight, you may be unable to leave without being released by a third party. Your life could end if a fire breaks out in the facility.
How To Get Away with Living in a Storage Unit
While we can’t recommend living in a storage unit – remember, this activity is against the law and dangerous – you may find yourself in a situation where you have no other choice.
Familiarize yourself with the security settings of the storage unit. Does the unit employ security guards that patrol overnight? If so, an attempt to live within a storage unit will be identified.
It’s likelier that a storage unit won’t always be staffed, but be mindful of CCTV. If the owners of a storage unit review footage in the morning, they may discover that somebody remained in the unit overnight.
Even if you can avoid immediate detection, living in a storage unit isn’t the same as sleeping there overnight. You’ll need to take steps to remain undetected in a storage unit for weeks.
Stay Under The Radar
Avoiding security guards or cameras isn’t the only way to avoid detection in a storage unit. You’ll also need to be careful regarding how you live, being mindful not to raise suspicion.
Building an indoor plumbing system in a storage unit can be risky, so ensure you have somewhere else to shower and utilize WC facilities. A gym membership is recommended.
You may want to operate a hot plate to prepare food, boil a kettle, or use a portable heater. Power may also be required to maintain access to electrical appliances like phones or laptops.
Trailing power from a central resource into a storage unit overnight will be noticed. If you want to use energy in the unit, seek permission during the day.
You’re unlikely to have power overnight unless you buy a generator.
Enter and Leave Periodically
Even if a storage unit is unstaffed and CCTV footage is only sporadically checked, comings and goings will likely be monitored and recorded.
You’ll use an automated key card if you don’t sign a document acknowledging arrival and departure.
If records show that you arrived at a storage unit in the morning and never left, this may be logged and an automated alert sent to the owners.
This may prompt a review of any camera footage. If you arrive with a mattress, suspicions will be raised.
Be mindful of patterns that show up with entry and departure. If you leave the storage unit at 6 AM every morning and return at 11 PM or midnight, owners will wonder what you’re up to.
Enhance Privacy And Safety
You may need to improve the security of the storage unit.
Read the terms and conditions for the unit. In some cases, staff may not have access. In others, employees may have a skeleton key, which means your secret could be discovered.
Consider getting an additional lock that secures the unit from the inside to improve security.
Ensure you don’t create the impression the unit is unlocked from the outside. If a staff member notices, they’ll investigate further or lock the door to secure your belongings.
What Happens If You Get Caught Living in A Storage Unit?
This depends on state and federal law, the policies assigned to the storage unit by the providers, how long you’ve been living there, and what you’ve been doing.
Expect your lease to be terminated. Living in a storage unit will violate the contract, and if anything happened to you, the owners of the unit would be held liable.
You may also be reported to the police and face legal action.
Empathetic owners may not take further action and provide alternative solutions. Most storage units have dealt with this situation and may have relationships with places that can assist.
While you may get away with spending a single night in a storage unit, especially if you can convince owners that it was an accident or one-off, you risk not being invited back.