Often when people find out that you work in self-storage, they ask “Have you ever found a storage unit full of money and do you get to keep it?” My answer to that is “Wouldn’t that be nice”.
Thanks to reality TV shows such as Storage Wars and Storage Hunters a lot of people believe there are storage units out there actually housing wads of cold hard cash and hidden gems. This could be the case, however, unlikely. So if I did happen to come across a storage unit that had cash in it, who gets to keep it?
Firstly, how do you “find” a storage unit with money in it? The golden rule to self-storage is that the tenant supplies the lock to their unit and has the key therefore is the only person who can access their unit. The only way I would ever know what is in someone’s storage unit is if the unit was 43 days in arrears when an inventory would need to be completed to prepare for auction; if the tenant told me or by attending a storage auction myself.
The most likely scenario would be finding the cash when completing an inventory on a unit in arrears. If this was discovered, the first question you would be asking yourself would be “Why have they put it in storage and not in a bank?” To avoid taxes? – maybe, to hide illegal activity? – Probably, or they could not be bothered digging it up every time they need some? – Unlikely. And if the tenant was in arrears due to failing to pay their account, they are not going to risk storing cash in their unit.
Secondly, when entering into a storage agreement, all customers are signing to state that they will comply with the page of fine print on the reverse side of the agreement – the terms and conditions. Included in the fine print are all of the things that cannot be stored by a potential storer. Clause 10d of the Standard Self Storage terms and conditions states that a storer:
“must not store items which are irreplaceable, such as currency, jewellery, furs, deeds, paintings, curios, works of art and items of personal sentimental value;”
Even though important points of the agreement are verbally pointed out to tenants, it is impossible to go through every point in the fine print. Therefore it is up to the tenant to read this information. People rarely read what they are signing these days so someone could store money and not know that they were breaching any storage terms and conditions.
Who gets it?
I would not be human if I did not say it would be tempting to keep it. However, personally, the consequences and risks are too high. If you put it in the bank it would not take Mr. Taxman long to track you down and obtain his share in the funds. If you spend it, people may get suspicious as to how you all of the sudden have the disposable income. Not forgetting money laundering suspicions or the risk of getting yourself unwillingly involved in some crime ring.
So if I ever discovered that hidden gem in a storage unit, I would report it to the police. Who knows, you may have just contributed to solving an ongoing investigation and may get a reward for your efforts. As nice as it would be to open someone’s storage unit to discover a small fortune, the reality is you probably will never ever come across such a unit. When I do, I will let you know!