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From the grocery store to the gas pump, costs are rising across the board and putting additional financial strain on Americans. With inflation currently at 8.3%, even something simple like buying household supplies or going out for dinner can cause significant sticker shock. Unfortunately, housing is not immune to this issue; the average rent rose 13.4% year over year in 2022.
With inflation on the rise and wages often remaining stagnant, it can be increasingly difficult to afford basic needs like food and shelter. Because of this, you might have wondered if you can live in a storage unit. At first glance, it may seem like it could be the perfect solution: you’d save thousands of dollars a month on rent, which would make it easier to afford other financial necessities. However, while living in a storage facility might seem like a tempting idea, it’s not something that you should actually follow through with. That’s because living in a storage unit is both illegal and unsafe. Here’s why.
Some units have very small, limited light sources, and others don’t have any electricity, which means they’re unsustainable as a long-term living solution. Storage units also don’t have windows, so there’s no natural light source. Research has shown that natural light helps boost Vitamin D, reduces seasonal depression and improves sleep, so living in a place without natural light can affect your mood and productivity in a negative way. It can also make you feel claustrophobic and stifled.
Storage units are a great option if you need to store seasonal camping gear or temporarily stow items as you prepare for a cross-country move. But because they lack heat and air conditioning capabilities, they can quickly become dangerous to stay in for extended periods of time. This is especially true in parts of the U.S. that experience major heat waves or snow storms. With temperatures becoming more extreme across the U.S., it’s not a good idea to stay in a facility that doesn’t have proper heating and cooling capabilities.
From washing your hands and brushing your teeth to cleaning dishes and wiping counters, countless daily tasks revolve around having access to safe, clean water. But because storage units don’t have running water, it’s difficult to complete important health and hygiene routines like taking a bath or shower, washing your face or washing dishes. There’s also no water for drinking or cooking (not to mention a lack of electricity and plug-ins for a stove and other cooking items). This makes it harder to do everything from cooking proper meals to cleaning up the dishes afterward. And without a toilet, you would have to keep your waste in a bucket, which would quickly become unsanitary. Living in a place without running water also increases the risk of attracting bugs and other pests.
Storage units are great for people who are preparing to welcome a baby or looking to downsize as they get ready to retire. But because storage units were not designed to be lived in, they are not right for those looking for a place to stay for the long haul. Each home and apartment building in the U.S. is built according to business codes that dictate emergency entrances and exits, fire and smoke regulations, and other important safety factors designed to protect inhabitants. Since storage units are not designed to be lived in, they don’t follow those same building codes and can therefore pose a greater safety risk to those attempting to use them in a way they were not designed for.
From basements to hurricane-proof glass windows, homes are built to withstand many natural disasters. This means they can offer more safety and protection than a storage unit. For example, if you live in a home with a basement, you can seek shelter if there’s a tornado — but if you live in a storage unit, there’s no place to go. Living in a unit can also increase the possibility of natural hazards. For example, some people living in storage units have accidentally caught the unit on fire due to not having proper ventilation.
Storage units are naturally created to lock from the outside so you can keep your valuables safe when you aren’t there. Because of this, there’s a chance that you could unknowingly get trapped in a unit and be unable to get out. Since storage units don’t have the same ventilation and airflow as a normal house, it’s unsafe to stay there for extended periods of time.
Finally, if the above reasons haven’t been enough to convince you that living in a storage unit is a bad idea, consider this: living in a storage unit is against the law. Local and federal laws both require storage facilities to evict anyone caught living on the premises, and they may be subject to civil or criminal penalties. Because storage facilities have onsite workers and cameras, getting caught is a matter of when, not if. So while it may seem tempting in the moment to save some money on rent, the potential long-term legal ramifications are simply not worth the risk.
Housing insecurity and homelessness are very serious and often systemic issues, and it can be incredibly scary if you are experiencing this. While it may seem appealing to stay in a storage unit, it’s unsafe to do so from both a legal and livability perspective. If you are unable to afford housing and need to find an alternative option, know that there are other attainable options available and people who are ready and trained to assist. Contact one of the following organizations that work with individuals experiencing housing insecurity. Their trained staff will be able to help you find the right housing solution for your current needs: