How Storage Auctions Work

Storage Auctions

I had storage items…Now I don’t.

This week’s blog is all about how self-storage unit auctions work and what it takes to get to the point of auctioning off unpaid storage units. We take a look at the 4 steps that self-storage companies like Public Storage can take when auctioning off some of their customer’s beloved left behind possessions.

First off, I want to start off with a little background on how storage auctions actually work. When a storage unit goes delinquent, a storage company will sell off the contents to the highest bidder. They do this by hosting free auctions to the public, where literally anyone who wants to take part can come and bid on a storage unit knowing little about its actual contents. Before bidding, people can take a quick look inside the storage unit and take notes on what they can see. At the end of the auction the highest bidder wins all of the contents. After winning the storage locker, you generally have 48 hours to clean out the unit and take everything out (including all of the trash).

Getting to the point that a storage unit sells your items is actually not as hard as you think it would be. From the moment you move in, a lien is in place against the items that you put into storage. That lien allows the storage facility to sell your unit’s contents, aka your precious old Pokemon card collection you wanted to save as they increased in value over the years. The sole purpose of this is so that the self-storage facility is able to recoup what it’s owed when people don’t pay the rent.

Storage Auctions are completely open to the public.

4 Steps to Being The Next Storage Locker Auctioned Off


The first step in having your items auctioned off is your lease defaulting. Your lease can default as early as 5 days and as late as 30 days after rent is due. Imagine losing some of your most valuable possessions for being less than 10 days late on a rent payment! Despite how outrageous this may seem, when you default, a storage operator is allowed to deny you access to your storage unit. However, you can regain access by paying the past-due amount, but every storage facility is unique in the way that they handle this process.


The second step is receiving a notification from the storage facility that your account has defaulted. According to Sparefoot “Self-storage facilities mail at least one letter specifying the past-due amount, fees, and scheduled auction date.” Most states also require an email notification to be sent, due to possible traveling tenants that wouldn’t be able to see mail that was sent to their home. So if you’re out and about enjoying your summer vacation and you get a notice from your storage facility that all your stuff is about to be sold, don’t worry all is not lost.


The third step that takes place is issuing a “public notice.” Most laws require public notice to be conspicuous. You can find auction notices in the local newspaper as much as two times for one self-storage facility or listed on a website like or There isn’t much notice given to the public but there are over a million people all over the U.S. visiting these auction sites everyday in hopes of finding a storage locker to buy.


The last step is the lien sale or better known as “auction time.” The average time between default and the time your items are auctioned pertains to each individual state, and ranges anywhere from 30 to 90 days according to some news sources. However, you can pay what you owe until the day of auction to stop the sale. Unfortunately, once the auction is over, there’s no going back. You will not be able to get any of the sold items back, unless you are able to find what outlet they are being sold at, and are willing to fork over more cash. Sale proceeds go towards your storage debt, and self-storage businesses usually notify tenants of money if there is any leftover (in case you needed a silver lining when all your family heirlooms get sold to a stranger). A tenant is then allowed to claim that money within a certain amount of time that could be anywhere from months to years, and any unclaimed money is usually turned over to a state or county agency.


All in all, the best way to not losing all of your storage items is to make sure you’re communicating with your storage company if you do receive a notice. They would prefer not to sell your items as much as you would. However, it is their last ditch effort to recover some lost income and unfortunately some storage facilities are a little more ruthless than others when it comes to this process. If you make sure you can pay for a storage locker before actually renting the locker this won’t become a problem in the first place. However, if it is just unfortunate circumstances, just use STOW IT. We don’t sell our customer’s items and we work with you to make sure you know when payments are due as well as take a moment to learn about your situation. Our late fees are also smaller than the giant storage company late fees as well so feel comfortable that you’re working with a company that actually cares about the consumer when renting through us! 😊