Who is liable for damage caused by rodents in storage boxes? – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

A North Texas consumer contacted NBC 5 Responds after saying rodents destroyed furniture and personal effects inside her storage unit. If this happens to you, who is responsible for the damage?

Read on for answers and what you need to know before renting.

“I just wanted someone to recognize what happened”

The smell was the first thing Carol Morelan said she noticed when she walked into her warehouse to move out last August.

“Not normal, just bad,” Morelan said. “One of my sons grabbed a big box. He just wanted to start carrying stuff. It was covered with [what] looked like urine and feces.

Moreland took pictures of boxes with chew marks, small pellets and liquid. She said she reported it, in person, to an employee at Public Storage on South Cooper Street near Green Oaks Boulevard in Arlington where she rented her unit.

Courtesy: Carol Morelan

“I just wanted someone to acknowledge what happened, take responsibility for it, and help me sanitize my items where I can take them home,” Morelan said.

She went back for items she said she could clean herself and left behind upholstered furniture, a Christmas tree and decorations. Morelan said she stopped paying rent for what she couldn’t clean up on her own.

“I received a notification that my rent was due,” Morelan said. “I called back and said, I won’t be paying for this discount and I need someone to contact me.”

She said a manager called once and said they would see what they could do, but Morelan said there was no follow-up call after that.

Store at your own risk

Public Storage sent notices of lien. Four months later, the storage unit sold at auction for ten dollars, applied to a balance of over $800.

“If the required notification procedures set out by law are followed, the storage company has the right to auction them,” said Clayton Hodges, consumer practices team leader at Northwest Texas Legal Aid.

Hodges explains that the tenant is often responsible for damage to a storage unit.

“Most contracts have a lot of exclusions as to what type of damage they will hold themselves liable for,” Hodges explained.

Morelan’s tenancy agreement stipulated that tenants store at their own risk.

What to do if you find damage

If you find damage, indicates that you can take some action. Hodges said consumers should notify the storage unit and follow up in writing by certified mail. Include photos with the letter.

If there is a health or safety issue, notify the local authorities.

Hodges said, “If there’s nothing in the contract that can help you, sometimes being a squeaky wheel can get you redress.”

Hodges also recommends insurance. In fact, Morelan’s rental agreement stated that insurance was required to store anything.

You can purchase coverage through your home or renters insurance policy, but the policy should specify whether it covers pests. Some may limit coverage.

Public Storage’s in-house insurance company brochure said it covered vermin damage – up to $250 minus a $100 deductible.

Morelan said she had coverage on her storage unit through her homeowners insurance, but learned that excluded damage caused by animals.

Carefully read rental and insurance contracts

NBC 5 Responds reached out to Public Storage, via phone, email and direct messages on social media. We stopped at the place Morelan used in person. A manager told us he couldn’t comment.

Morelan said she wants consumers to read their rental and insurance contracts carefully before putting their things away.

“I imagine if I ever use another storage shed, I’ll check it more frequently,” Morelan said.

Also learn about pest control practices and take precautions in your own unit as well.

Another good idea: make a detailed inventory of your property and keep it up to date. You can use your phone to take a video, much like you would for a home inventory. Pay particular attention to serial numbers.

NBC 5 Responds is committed to finding your concerns and getting your money back. Our goal is to provide you with answers and, where possible, solutions and resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or fill out our customer complaint form.

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