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FAQ Check: Storage-Room Agreements

Habitat Staff in Co-op/Condo Buyers

March 31, 2011 — As a New York Times Magazine article noted not long ago, storage lockers are recession-proof. We all have stuff, and we need a place to put the overflow: folding chairs you take out twice a year for holiday dinners, your kids' kindergarten drawings you can't quite bring yourself to throw out, old business records you need to keep for legal reasons but don't need cluttering your closets. The solution, as many co-op and condo buildings have found, is an onsite storage room. And like anything else, you need to know what's involved — both in terms of common practices and legal technicalities. Now you will.

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Q. What is a storage room?

A. As an amenity for residents, many co-op and  condo buildings make storage lockers available for a fee, usually monthly and generally for less than outside storage companies might charge. In most cases, they are located in the basement. You have a key to a locker, and optimally, the storage area as a whole is also locked. In many cases, there can be a lengthy waiting list for a storage locker.

Many companies manufacture and install such bins, and some companies handle the whole storage-room arrangement as a third-party vendor, similar to the way many buildings contract-out for their laundry-room services.

Q. What are typical fee arrangements?

A.  Some buildings charge a flat fee based on bin size, while others tie it to maintenance, and increase it at the same percentage as the maintenance.

Q. Are there any city requirement regarding storage lockers?

A. They have to be fireproof, which generally means a metal bin.

Q. Is there usually a formal storage-room agreement between the resident and the board?

A. Bingo.  A storage-room licensing agreement, usually drawn up by the co-op or condo board's attorney, is a document between the board and the shareholder / unit-owner who rents the space. If your building has contracted-out the administration of the storage room, the outside company typically has a licensing agreement of its own with residents, which the board has reviewed and approved.

Q. So is a storage-room agreement like a lease?

A. In most cases, the board will neither call nor consider your licensing agreement "a lease," which grants certain rights under the law. There is a more limited right with a license agreement. Among other things, a licensing agreement is revocable; were it to be a lease, a board would have to through landlord-tenant court to revoke it.

Q. What types of rules are typical in a storage-room agreement?

A.  A licensing agreement for storage space regulates what can and cannot be stored in your storage space. That means, in typical language, that you may not store a living creature or organism, or any dead animal; gasoline, oil or oil-based paints, fuel, grease or flammable chemicals; corrosive, toxic or hazardous materials or waste; asbestos; construction debris; new or used batteries; weapons or ammunition; anything with a fuel tank; liquid propane tanks, oxygen tanks or similar containers; and food, fertilizers, pesticide or items that are wet and could mildew.

A typical agreement will also prohibit lodging or sleeping in a storage area; cooking in one; or holding meetings, parties or other gatherings there. The agreement will also likely define the hours that you can gain access.

Q. Are there liability issues I should be aware of? What if something gets water-damaged in my storage locker, through no fault of my own?

A.  In terms of liability, the agreement will likely contain a warning such as: "All property is stored at tenant's sole risk. Lessor is not responsible for damage or loss to person or property caused by fire, smoke, water, weather, vermin, insects, interruption of utilities, unexplained disappearance, negligence of lessor or lessor's agents, or any other cause, including theft and criminal acts of others."

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