Thanks to the popularity of shows like Auction Hunters and Storage Wars, more people are interested in storage auctions as a way to make money.
As novices flock to auctions, it’s important to understand exactly what they’re getting into.
While it’s certainly possible to find some real treasures in an abandoned storage unit, it’s more likely that you’ll find a lot of units filled with household items, trash and personal memorabilia with no real value.
Once a unit has been sold, it’s the winning bidder’s responsibility to clean out the unit within 24 to 48 hours.
All items inside the unit must be moved and stored or disposed of within that time frame.
While this may not be an issue for expensive goods that you can resell, it can pose a problem when you run across personal items from the previous tenant.
Items such as:
- Tax documents
- Identification Cards
- Vehicle Titles
- Social Security Cards
- Credit Cards
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificates
- Marriage Licenses
- Divorce Papers
- Urns containing the ashes of deceased pets or relatives
- Photographs, Scrapbooks, and other Personal Memorabilia
- Letters and Correspondence
People may not realize that they won’t necessarily get these items back if they fall behind on their storage payments. They may not even realize that these items have been stored.
A move can be strenuous and stressful, and it’s easy to forget what items are packed in which boxes.
Because memorabilia and personal documents are rarely used, a person could keep them in storage for years before realizing they were gone.
As a treasure hunter, these items are worthless. They may mean a lot to the previous tenant, however, and so auction hunters are faced with the option of what to do with the personal contents of a person’s abandoned storage unit. There are generally three main options:
- Attempt to find the previous owner. Their information may be easily obtained from the storage unit’s owner or the documents themselves. You can contact the tenant and explain the situation and offer to give back the sensitive items. Most people will be relieved to get back Grandma’s ashes or their high school yearbook. This can go badly, however, if the person gets angry at you for buying their other belongings. You’ll need to tread carefully when approaching this situation to avoid potential altercations.
- Leave the items with the storage company’s manager. You can leave the items at the front office for the tenant to pick up later. Not all managers will be willing to hold items for previous tenants, but it can help prevent unpleasant interactions. This may be the best option if you’re unable or unwilling to get in contact with the tenant.
- Discard the items. For some auction hunters, tracking down previous tenants is too time consuming. You’re under no legal or moral obligation to return items to their owners, so you can throw away anything you have no use for. If you do dispose of these items, however, do the previous tenant a courtesy and do it properly. For example, try to shred or burn personal documents rather than throwing them in the trash where an identity thief could come across it.
Reuniting items with their proper owners isn’t your responsibility, but it may help you feel better to know that these personal items are back in their owner’s hands.
No matter what you choose to do with the items in your storage unit, it’s worth having a game plan in mind in advance so that you can move swiftly to resolve these types of issues.
Please leave your insightful opinions in the comment box below.
January 25, 2015 at 6:59 PM
i lost all of my important documents that belonged to both of my deceased parents in a storage unit in North Carolina. I’m wondering if someone through them away. My father’s birth and death certificates, my father’s dd-214 from us army. also my marraige, and my divorce documents which the county claims they’ve lost. included were my the only photos of my father in the military. I am very disturbed about that loss. If you know of any place i can search to recover these documents please let me know. Thank you!
January 25, 2015 at 8:39 PM
Your best bet is to contact the storage facility manager and ask him/her to have the buyer contact you. The buyer is under no obligation to do so; however, it’s worth a shot. Good luck!
July 26, 2017 at 3:41 AM
These A holes dont give A FLYING F..K. THE PROPERTY MANAGERS THAT WORK FOR THESE INVESTMENT GROUP, llc’s are Liars and Thieves. It’s all a racket!
January 19, 2018 at 4:56 PM
Yesterday I lost my storage.. My pictures of my child good was there.. I feel like a piece of me is gone.. I’m from Jacksonville florida n my storage was at Atlantic storage on normandy Blvd… I pray to god they have in there heart to return my pictures.. Those memories can’t be replaced…
February 2, 2018 at 3:34 PM
My personal information was sold in a storage auction, and the purchaser used my social security number to run up a $5K gas bill. Storage facilities should face the same consequences as other businesses for selling personal information
October 11, 2018 at 6:58 PM
Why should they be held responsible. We have no idea what you have stored in your storage unit. You know what would have solved the problem. If you had paid your storage on time and it didn’t get auctioned. Take responsibility for your own actions and don’t blame others.
August 25, 2019 at 1:36 AM
What a rude comment. What happens when you lose your job, your home and your savings only last so long? Do you have someone that is willing to lend a hand? I didn’t. I have 3 children, we have been homeless for 6 years. Now our clothes, pictures, and personal information is scheduled for auction in 2 days.
March 17, 2018 at 10:05 PM
I had a storage unit auctioned off in Chicago and everything in it was of value.Everything was stored neatly in totes. I made the mistake of placing my property in the hands of someone else. I’m regretting this so much. I have so many important documents and pictures in there. I have so much in there. I asked the facility to ask the person who buys my unit if they could return all documents,pictures. I’m hoping and praying
June 6, 2018 at 1:34 PM
During unemployment, I lost all of my vintage Christian books and literature, a laptop with health and bible lessons used on mission trip, and the startup info for my business. If anyone has these items, pleas
Lost in Self-security storage, SPRING Valley rd, Dallas Tx, Unit A-47.
I’m willing to pay for my belongings. Identity theft has been going on, which started before the unit sold, ad I would some confidential stuff back along with my booKS and biz info to keep any future potential for identity theft issues at bay.
July 17, 2018 at 7:35 PM
That’s interesting to know that if you do buy a storage unit from an auction that it’s your responsibility to have it cleared out within the next 24 to 48 hours. That seems easy unless there is a lot of junk that’s inside which means you might have to make a couple trips to the dump while also making sure it the storage facility has open and closed hours that those are also adhered to. I’m interested to try to find an auction II can go to and see what I can get, but I’ll have to make sure I have some friends to help me and have a truck to get rid of any junk.
Leesa C Curry
July 28, 2018 at 4:41 AM
I had Life storage 246 East Broad st. Col. Ohio I would like to get personal items back. Would like to pay for all if possible? Please! Please!Leesa Curry 614-826-2513 Thank you!
July 29, 2018 at 7:15 PM
If a person buys the contents within a storage unit, they should NOT throw the previous owner’s family photos away. They absolutely do have a moral obligation to walk a few feet to give them to the office manager, or at the very least leave them in the unit. To discard them is heartless.
November 19, 2019 at 2:33 PM
Obviously you don’t understand why the facility auctions off your stored goods in the first place. It’s because they are a business and can’t pay their bills if their clients don’t pay them for services rendered. Mind you, storage facilities don’t just up and sell your things. There’s a long, legal process which gives customers a fair opportunity to pay what they owe or at least ample time to contact the facility to discuss before public sale. Most clients up for auction choose to ignore their obligation and then want to complain about it later. In many cases auction buyers travel far distances and remove sealed boxes from units and then drive home before finally going through them. Do you honestly think they are gonna drive 3 hours back just to return photos of little Johnny in his soccer uniform? As for leaving the items in the unit…the reason it is auctioned off in the first place is to try and recover the monies owed and make the unit available for future rental. Neither of which can be done if after the auction, the personal stuff was put back inside the unit for who knows how long! Now suppose the customer has no interest in getting their personal stuff back? Now what…the storage facility has to hire a dumpster and pay to get rid of your stuff on top of everything else? Here’s an idea, how about taking responsibility for your own situation and don’t blame the auction buyer or the storage facility!!! Oh and for those who think storage facilities make out on the sale of your stuff, guess again. Most units sell for next to nothing compared to what is owed after the whole legal process (certified mailings, publishing auction ads, hiring auctioneers, etc.). It’s not like the television show and here’s a little known fact, if the unit does happen to sell for more than is owed, by law the facility can only keep what customer owed them and must give back the balance to the client, so they never make a profit. They can only break even!
August 19, 2018 at 10:11 PM
Lost storage in Edison nj last name Robinson, photos and some junk for you but valuable for me.
September 10, 2018 at 1:33 PM
I became extreamely ill and was bed ridden. With no income, my storage was sold at auction in March of 2018 at U-Haul Moving and Storage located at 169 Meriden Rd. Waterbury, unit 2059. It was 8x8x6 Split Level Upper Non-Climate. It sold for approx 450.00 It contained my life and among the contence were entire of my photos and records. Around 5 boxes in all also all family heirlooms. Among the photos were of my two daughters entire childhood including original social security cards, birth certificates, report cards photos etc. My deceased parents wedding 1950s all photos of my deceased husband some are military, 1972. Photos and clippings of my fathers racing career mostly at Saven Rock. The only photo of my grandfather in existence. This photo was on top of an antique hunch. It was an oval military frame with a broken convex glass. His name was on the back ” Charles Broughan”, and my life in photoes and documents. As theses items are of no monetary value to you, I pray that you to do the right thing and please please return our family photos.
September 13, 2018 at 2:10 PM
I had to put my things in a storage which included mostly photos and another photo album and a few other childhood belongings….this was back in 2015 and I sometimes get pissed about it because I wish i could’ve grabbed those things, and now its gone and the feeling sucks….I wish there was a policy on personal items like that where they send it back to you or something like that…thats why storage spaces shouldn’t be trusted….it was a really stupid scenario.
November 3, 2018 at 9:59 PM
In Portland Oregon in publick storage on 74 and Halsey I Chris Rivera lost my unit because I couldn’t afford to pay for it I don’t care about stuff in it but there is very important case paper work on my son Apollo Rivera it’s law suit so I would like to get those boxes back its very important. Please ‘contact me at 971 707-6387 or firstname.lastname@example.org or my adress at 17010 s.e Stark st.. Apartment B102 ..Portland or 97233…thank you
May 25, 2019 at 5:31 PM
i lost my personal papers including birth certificates and memorable photo albums keepsake. was auctioned in 2016 in lakewood California or considered long beach California at Storage for less on paramount and candlewood. pls email me if you still have these items please. email@example.com
May 27, 2019 at 8:00 AM
My husband and I had got a storage unit at public storage in Burien towards Normandy park in Washington. We had to get it seeing as we were moving from a home that we had stayed in with my brother to living in our car so we had no choice but to get a storage but now really regret it. In February of 2018 we had lost our precious baby boy of 2 1/2 months. Less than 3 months later we were leaving the home where our baby had passed away. And we were able to keep up payments until November of 2018. In this unit was everything I ever had of my baby boy Keyrmani and of our other son which is only about 1 1/2 years older than our baby. In this unit we even had the outfit that our baby was wearing the day he passed away and the paramedics had cut off him to give him CPR. Also both our boys baby hats from the hospital when they were born. So please if have anything from our unit or any information would be really appreciated and we had also lost our 1st unit together at public storage in Burien,WA on 1st ave in Burien about the end of 2016 about December so I’m looking for any thing from either of our babies. Please it really would mean a whole lot to our little family. We would have never had any problem paying our storage with the help of family if my family wouldn’t have turned their backs on me when I got with my now husband and it is only because he is black. So please any help please contact Cheyanne Kintop at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425)678-9580. Thank you and good bless all of you.
October 27, 2019 at 7:34 PM
I had my items STOLEN from a Public Storage unit in Houston TX – it was id/photos and Baby Albums in Black Creative Memorie Bags that are what am looking to find. I was convinced that some one who stole the black bags thought they were getting compters – this was on 290 freeway near Jersey Village – IF anyone has seen, or purchases a “Locker” and comes across BLACK CM/CREATIVE MEMORY BAGS with 2 baby girl photo albums and a “gym bag” full of pictures and passport – please contact me!! I am just looking to get back lost items – no other questions will be asked – the lady next to me lost her entire portfolio of Art from college – please contact me if you find it!!
November 5, 2019 at 8:43 PM
Is there anyway to get in touch with the people that bought the storage unit to see if the desposed of the as cards and person info?
December 4, 2019 at 1:21 PM
Anna, most storage facilities don’t disclose information about the buyer. Some buyers do turn in personal and sentimental items to management. Also, you can contact the facility manager and ask him/her to contact the buyer and ask them if they still have those items. It’s worth a shot. Perhaps they will drop them off with the facility manager or meet you somewhere.