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What's Behind Rising Storage Unit Rent? The I-Team Investigates

Throughout the pandemic, the I-Team has heard complaints from other struggling consumers about Public Storage. They say the company levied huge rent increases, hit them with late fees, and even threatened to auction off their belongings if they didn’t come current with their rent. 

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If you rent a storage unit, you may have noticed that your rent keeps going up. Consumers have been complaining to the I-Team about this for a few years now, saying the rent hikes are happening when they can least afford it.

A few years ago, Mark Smollin lost the lease on his apartment. Not sure where he was going next, he moved his belongings into a Pasadena Public Storage unit. 

“I had to liquidate things I couldn't afford to store, so I rented the smallest unit that I could,” said Smollin.

Smollin’s rent started at $108 a month, and 3½ years later, it’s gone up more than 70% – to $192. He says he told Public Storage that he can’t afford it, but they won’t help. 

“I said I’m a senior, I'm going to be on a fixed income, I need to keep the cost down. But that doesn’t matter,” said Smollin.

Throughout the pandemic, the I-Team has heard complaints from other struggling consumers about Public Storage. They say the company levied huge rent increases, hit them with late fees, and even threatened to auction off their belongings if they didn’t come current with their rent. 

While you’re protected by law against some of these actions when renting a residential unit, like an apartment, there are no protections when renting a storage unit. That’s because the industry isn’t regulated; no one’s watching what goes on, so they raise rents because they can. 

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Adrian Ponsen, an industrial real estate analyst with CoStar Group, says storage facilities have very few vacant units right now, which is driving up prices. 

“This is all about stuff. We bought a lot of stuff over the past two years. And that’s what’s driving a lot of this demand,” said Ponsen.

He says during the pandemic, when consumers quit spending money on travel and entertainment, they bought stuff instead. But they had no place to put it all, so they started renting space. Ponsen says rents on storage units typically go up 2% a year, but now they’ve been going up an average of 17%. 

“When you couple all of the stuff that Americans have bought over the past two years with the fact that we’re in a general squeeze in the housing market where it’s tough to find more space, this has really been a huge boost to the self storage industry,” he said.

The I-Team wanted to talk with Public Storage about the complaints we’ve received, but the company didn’t return our repeated phone calls. 

The Better Business Bureau’s Steve McFarland says consumers really have only one option. 


“The advice we give consumers is to shop around and research. Even if it’s not so close to where you live or your business is, you might find it might be economical for you to shop around and look at different units,” he said.

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