12 ON YOUR SIDE: Insurance problems with storage infestation

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Linda Mack says she got two surprises. First, when she opened her storage unit and found roaches and evidence of rats, and again, she says, when the storage facility said it's not responsible for the infestation.

When you put your belongings in storage, it's not enough to insure it, before you store it. Find out the types of damages your insurance won't cover to avoid surprises about who's responsible, if your property gets damaged.

"It's bad because it's my stuff," said Mack. "My furniture, which I paid good money for. I have to leave it outside because I can't put it in no one's home."

Linda Mack moved her belongings out of a storage unit at U-Haul Southpark in Colonial Heights and stacked them under a canopy at her mom's home.

"The smell you smell is from the storage shed. It had a very bad smell. Plus they defogged it for roaches. They claim it was odorless, but you still could smell the stuff from the cans, and they left all the cans and stuff inside the storage shed."

She claims roaches were breeding in an adjacent unit and the infestation spread to her rented space.

Linda had insurance she bought through U-Haul. She reported the problem. U-Haul spent the next several months trying to resolve it.

"I called 12 because I was not satisfied, and they were not doing anything. The insurance company would not acknowledge my claim."

Repwest Insurance did offer to pay $250, which Linda rejected as insult to injury. U-Haul and its insurance company said there were no prior problems and the fact that another customer may have brought in roaches is not U-Haul's fault. It calls the offer a good faith attempt to help.

"They say it's not in the contract. That's all they told me. It was not covered under their contract. I had a $5,000 contract claim."

Linda's covered for storm damage, building collapse, burglary and other perils - but not bugs.

Typically, storage facilities are not liable for pests.

Here are some tips to help protect your belongings:

•  Check out the unit before you move in your things and ask whether the business has a contract with a regular exterminator.

•  Take pictures of your belongings as you box them up. The documentation will help determine your property's value.

•  Know your coverage. Cash value pays a depreciated amount. A replacement policy pays today's cost to get a new item.

U-Haul says it wants to make Linda Mack happy. The district manager called and talked with her yesterday afternoon. Linda tells me she's pleased with the new agreement to get the items cleaned and U-Haul will pay for it. The two stopped communicating at one point. We got them talking again.

Email from Rich Cowell, President, U-Haul Company of Virginia

I have personally spoken to Ms. Mack to discuss her dispute and advised her that we will handle it together.  I advised her that even though she elected the Safestor self-storage insurance coverage that it did not cover for vermin, because roaches are normally brought in by customers and it is out of our control.  However, as a customer goodwill gesture we decided we would allow a claim to be placed and we would assist Ms. Mack by refunding her for having her items cleaned.  I assured her that whatever it costs to clean her furniture, clothing and belongings, I will provide her with a refund for the money she spends on this cleaning.  I apologized for the claim process not being to her satisfaction and advised that once she provides me with the invoices/quotes for having her items cleaned that I will provide her with a refund.  My team is also going to assist Ms. Mack in finding vendors who will come to her home to clean her belongings, with pick-up, drop-off and delivery capability.

I also advised Ms. Mack that this location has a pest-control program in place and that the location has not had any roach or rodent claims going back to 2006.

The unit Ms. Mack rented was a Sustainable Modular Storage unit, an innovative program exclusive to U-Haul, which reuses detached van bodies from retired U-Haul trucks to build sustainably engineered self-storage units.  Sustainable self-storage, constructed from reused materials, protects resources and eliminates energy usage needed to manufacture new construction materials of concrete, wood, steel and plastics.  To date, 4,500 Sustainable Modular Storage units have enabled us to keep more than 10,000 tons of GHG emissions out of our environment.

Ms. Mack did elect to have the Safestor self-storage insurance coverage; however Safestor does not cover loss or damage caused by vermin.

Safestor covers loss or damage caused by the following.

  • Fire
  • Smoke
  • Lightning
  • Hurricane
  • Tornado
  • Wind
  • Hail
  • Earthquake
  • Building collapse
  • Explosion
  • Vandalism
  • Leaking water
  • Burglary - now offering 100 percent coverage if requested. There must be visible signs of forced entry and a police report must be filed.

The following items are NOT covered by Safestor.

  • Jewelry
  • Financial records
  • Currency
  • Deeds and documents
  • Works of art
  • Antiques
  • Securities
  • Stamps
  • Watches
  • Precious stones
  • Furs
  • Garments trimmed with fur
  • Motorized vehicles (licensed or not, such as motor scooters, ATVs, motorcycles, and/or lawnmowers).
  • There is no coverage for loss caused by or resulting from war, flood (or surface water), vermin or climatic conditions like rust or mildew.

The following are do's and don'ts for self-storage customers.

Do: Adhere to all guidelines of the self-storage rental agreement.

Don't: Store food or perishables, alcohol, flammable items, paint, gasoline or solvents.

Do: Purchase a sturdy lock for your room.

Don't: Store heirlooms, antiques, personal papers, jewelry or items, which cannot be replaced.

Do: Inspect the facility and interview its manager. Be certain that you are comfortable with security procedures and the protection that you and your belongings will be afforded.

In closing, I would like to thank NBC 12 News for contacting us. We appreciate the opportunity to resolve this matter with our customer and respond to your request for information.

Copyright 2013 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.