Self storage (a shorthand for "self-service storage", and also known as "Device storage") is an industry in which storage space (such as rooms, lockers, containers, and/or outdoor space), also known as "storage units" is rented to tenants, usually on a short-term basis (often month-to-month). Self-storage tenants include businesses and individuals.
Industry experts often refer to "4Ds of life" (death, divorce, downsizing and dislocation; the latter can refer to either the renter relocating to another area and needing space to store items until they can be moved to the new location, or a subsequent marriage resulting in the couple having duplicate items) when discussing why storage space is rented.
Self-storage facilities rent space on a short-term basis (often month-to-month, though options for longer-term leases are available) to individuals (usually storing household goods; nearly all jurisdictions prohibit the space from being used as a residence) or to businesses (usually storing excess inventory or archived records). Some facilities offer boxes, locks, and packaging supplies for sale to assist tenants in packing and safekeeping their goods, and may also offer truck rentals (or may allow free use of a truck for a new tenant).
Most storage facilities offer insurance for purchase; also, the lessor may be covered by his/her own insurance policy (if such policy has coverage for items stored off the premises of the insured) or may purchase insurance to cover the items (which the facility may offer as a service through a third-party carrier, and in some cases may require the lessor to purchase as a condition of rental).
The rented spaces are secured by the tenant's own lock and key. Unlike in a warehouse, self-storage facility employees do not have casual access to the contents of the space (and, thus, the facility is generally not liable for theft). A self-storage facility does not take possession or control of the contents of the space unless a lien is imposed for non-payment of rent, or if the unit is not locked the facility may lock the unit until the tenant provides his/her own lock.
Although there is historical evidence of publicly available storage in ancient China, modern self-storage facilities (in which the tenant has exclusive access to the storage space) did not begin to appear until the late 1960s. The first self-storage facility chains opened in Texas. This was often helped by the fact that most homes in Texas do not have basements, which often is used for storage.
The first self-storage facility in Europe was started in the United Kingdom by Doug Hampson, and opened in central London in 1979. Called Abbey Self Storage, it would become the first self-storage chain in Europe. "... it was Doug Hampson who gave Britain the modern self-storage industry, with its bright, clean corridors and endless rows of brightly-coloured doors. In the industry he is widely credited with the enviable title of the "father of UK self-storage".
Modern storage facilities grew slowly through the 90s, at which time demand outpaced supply and caused a rush of new self-storage developments. From 2000 to 2005, over 3,000 new facilities were built every year in America.
At year-end 2019, there were 47,539 self-storage facilities in the United States on industrial and commercial land parcels. There is more than 1.9 billion square feet of available self-storage in space in U.S. The six largest publicly traded storage operators (four REITs, and U-Haul own or operate approximately 18% of self-storage facilities. The industry is worth $38 billion in 2018. More recently, in many metropolitan cities where competition among storage companies is fierce, better parcels of land near residential and commercial areas are being converted into self-storage once approved by zoning panels. Companies are becoming more adept at manufacturing these modular storage units, allowing operators to get up and running quickly. To support the need, businesses like PODS are expected to enter the modular construction effort as well.