The $39 billion, "recession-resistant" self-storage industry is cashing in during the pandemic in Colorado with late fees, evictions and auctions when people don't make their rent payments.
Contact Denver7 found hundreds of self-storage units up for auction across the Denver metro area, a type of pandemic storage wars that still happen in person, but have primarily moved online.
"It's hard to find a job," said Derek Sklar, who put his entire life into a Greeley storage unit last year, following a crash and pandemic-related unemployment. "Everything I had was in there. And I got behind on my payments."
In January, Sklar said he paid $300 to Greeley Self Storage, as part of a good-faith effort to play catch up. It wasn't enough. His items were sold before he called again in February to make another payment.
"They took my $300 and said nothing about an auction," he said. "They claim they sent me a letter. I never received any letter. Why was I not advised over the phone? It just is not fair."
Aurora Realtor Marti Furay knows the feeling. She fell behind on storage rent at Storage Sense in Aurora after her real estate deals started falling apart.
She said she paid $400 to catch up, but her belongings were sold to the highest bidder with no notification.
"I said, 'You got to be kidding me. You told me during COVID, nothing was going to be sold. The office has been closed the last three times I came here,'" she said. "I'm saddest about losing all my Christmas stuff. I had the Norman Rockwell snow village. And that was a family tradition for grandkids."
Other states have been considering storage auction moratoriums, and cities such as Los Angeles have outlawed storage evictions.
In a Denver7 Rebound Town Hall last year, it was not clear if Colorado's ban on evictions and late fees applied to self-storage.
"I would hope whoever has these storage units would provide again provide the sort of grace that we need," said Colorado's Attorney General Phil Weiser.
At Greeley Self Storage, a man who identified himself as a manager said he had no comment about offering concessions during COVID-19, saying, "We are compliant with the Colorado lien laws."
Meanwhile, Storage Sense operators responded to Contact Denver7 that they will reach out to Furay about the situation.
"Thank you, Channel 7, for what you're doing, because there has to be resolution," Furay said.
Meanwhile, on Facebook Marketplace, Sklar said he found some of his possessions listed for sale. The woman who bought his unit told Contact Denver7 she would work with him to return or buy back personal items.
Sklar said he just wishes he had been protected in the first place.
"I mean, they're protecting people's homes (from eviction)," he said. "What about the stuff that's inside people's homes that don't have a home anymore?"
The Self Storage Association did not respond to our emails requesting comment.
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