Storage units go to great lengths to manage pests at their facilities. Not only does it serve their tenants’ best interests, but it helps their bottom line.
If prospective tenants see rats or cockroaches, or any other pests for that matter, it will impact their decision on whether to rent there. Tenants and potential customers want to see clean facilities free of rodents.
Rats, however, are a part of city and suburban living. They come to where the people are in search of shelter and food. Unfortunately, this means they can and do turn up at storage facilities from time to time.
But can you sue a storage company for rats?
Suing your storage company for rats can only be done when there is negligence involved and, and at the same time, you’ve held up your end of the lease terms. The occasional rat will likely be hard to sue for, and if there was anything in your storage unit that could have attracted them there, then you may have to shoulder some of the responsibility.
Taking someone to court for breach of contract or negligence should be a last resort. The process can be arduous and costly. Lawyer fees rack up even while the outcome is uncertain.
A much better option is to work with the storage company on a solution that fits your needs and gets to the bottom of the rat issue.
They should be inclined to work with you considering the reputation impact a rat issue can have on their business. Let’s explore what’s involved in a lawsuit against a storage company and some workarounds if you encounter a rat problem.
Rats, Mice, & Other Pests in Your Storage Unit
Discovering your storage unit has rats or mice is never fun. You want your things and your unit to be secure and safe when you’re not there. Just the idea of furry creatures scurrying around your unit at night rifling through your things is extremely frustrating.
This is one good reason to check on your storage unit regularly. Even if you’re keeping things in there that you won’t use for years, you’ll want to know they are in good condition and that your unit is free of pests.
If rats get in, they can burrow into your furniture or other soft items and destroy them. Many people are surprised at how far rats will go to get into things. They’ll chew through cardboard and will climb to high heights to get where they want to go.
Notify Storage Unit Management Immediately
If you do see a rat or some other rodent, or you see indications that they are in your unit, like animal droppings or chewed-up boxes, contact the manager immediately. Let them know what’s going on and ask them what they are going to do about it.
Usually, the storage unit will have a plan for dealing with rats and will have an extermination company on call to help out with these types of situations.
Again, the management team will want to help out with the rat situation as quickly as possible to limit damage and protect their business.
The Question of Liability When Rats Infest a Storage Unit
You’d be wrong to automatically assume that the storage unit owner is responsible for every rat problem. While they are in charge of the overall facility and pest control efforts, if a tenant is violating their contract by having unauthorized food items in the unit or other prohibited items, they could be found liable for damages caused by rats.
Before you move to start any legal action, you need to make sure there is nothing in your storage unit that attracts the rats. If you have food, candy, or anything else rats are attracted to, then it will be hard to assign full responsibility to the owner or management.
However, there can certainly be instances in which the storage unit facility is negligent in its pest control duties. This situation arises when tenants make multiple complaints about rodent problems and nothing happens. No exterminators come and, essentially, tenant concerns are shrugged off.
If this happens, your chances of successfully suing a storage company for rats are much better. They can be held responsible for any damage to furniture or other personal items from rats.
Read the Terms of Your Lease that Outline Property Damage
Suing a company for a rat problem can be very hard if the lease you signed states that the storage company will not be held liable for any damage to your property.
It’s a clause of tenant contracts and other agreements we sign all of the time (skate rinks, gyms, large events). Even though it’s often taken for granted, those types of clauses are designed for exactly these types of situations.
Some storage companies will cite the contract if rats cause damage inside your unit. This underscores why everyone, including people signing leases on storage units, should carefully read the fine print of every contract they sign.
Going the Attorney Route When You Have a Rat Problem in Your Storage Unit
If you’re committed to getting damages from your storage company, you’re going to need an attorney to build your case. Most law firms dealing with these types of situations that involve liability and contracts will offer a free consultation to discuss your case with you.
On the call, you can talk to them about the rat infestation, whether it was a one-time thing or a recurring issue. They’ll ask several questions of you to gauge whether they should take you on as a client.
Most of the time, lawyers will try to work toward a settlement that is amenable to both you and the storage company.
However, if the storage company feels that they have a strong defense because of the contract that is in place and the steps they took to address the problem, then a settlement out of court is unlikely.
In that case, you should be prepared for months or even years of legal wrangling to resolve the matter.
Asking for Compensation for Damage to Your Property
Instead of going to court, you can save yourself some time and money by dealing with the storage company directly.
If you feel like they haven’t lived up to their responsibilities as a business owner or operator, and your property was damaged by rats, then asking them for compensation for your items is within reason.
Your success with this route will vary from facility to facility and will depend on how much damage occurred. Sometimes, the storage companies would rather deal with you to manage the problem in-house as opposed to involving lawyers and making it a larger problem.
One thing you should do to protect yourself is to create a document trail of the times you’ve asked for extermination services, complaints you’ve made, and any responses from management. This will hold them accountable for what was promised in the lease regarding a safe, secure, and clean facility for their tenants.
You’ll just have to be patient. Remember that many business owners are wary of people asking for compensation because they may feel like they are being targeted unfairly.
Approach the situation calmly and go from there. If you approach the situation reasonably at first, you up your odds of a quick, pleasant solution.
Continue to escalate your response if the storage company fails to act.
If you get a break on your rent to pay for any damage to a couch or chair that was in your unit, or they write you a check, it will keep you out of court and will prevent causing irreparable harm to the relationship between you and the company.