If you’ve never had a storage unit before, knowing all the questions that you should ask can be difficult. So here’s a little primer on things you should ask your storage facility. If you don’t like the answers, or they can’t answer them, you might want to find a new facility.

What security precautions do you have in place?

Sure, your storage unit has a lock on it, but what kind of lock is it? Is it the same type of lock you had on your locker in high school? If so, you may want to consider a different type of lock. Cylinder locks and disc locks provide you with the most security because they are hardest for a would-be thief to cut.

But what other types of security are present at the facility?

If it is an outdoor facility, does it have good lighting at night? Is the property fenced? Does the company keep a record of who enters the property and when? Are there security cameras?

Ask questions and drive by the facility at the time of day you are most likely to visit it to determine if you would feel safe accessing your storage unit.

Do you have trouble with water, mice, spiders?

The natural inclination of most storage unit operators is to tell you that they never have problems with these things. In most cases, that’s a lie and you should look for another facility. But the best way to find out if it is true is to ask what they do to prevent problems.

Outside storage units often attract mice. Your storage manager should be able to tell you how you can help prevent rodents in your unit. A great option is to add cedar balls or cedar planks to the things you are storing. This can help keep rodents and bugs away, but they should also tell you to avoid things that will attract mice like storing food and using cardboard boxes. Experienced managers can also tell you the more unusual things that will attract rodents.

For example, we once had a tenant at a different facility who was adamant that nothing in her unit should have made mice want to come in, but she had a mouse problem anyway. When we opened up her unit to discuss the problem, to large planters with dead plants in them were right inside the door. It might not have been food to her, but to mice it was a delicious dinner.

We spray units between tenants with a home defense-style pesticide to reduce the number of bugs, but still suggest that people supplement with cedar of some sort. We can also walk you around the property and point out the drainage that prevents us from having water problems.

What happens if I get behind on my payments?

Your storage manager should be more than willing to explain Pennsylvania law regarding lien sales and the company’s late fee policies. Ask to know what day those late fees are applied and how they are figured. At our last company, the owner was meticulous and even if your check was mailed before the due date, he charged late fees if it was not in the office on time. He also would charge you late fees on late fees. For example, if John paid his rent late this month and owed a $20 late fee, paid next month’s rent on time, but still owed the late fee, the owner charged him another late fee. And that owner’s attitude is not unusual in the industry.

How often do you raise prices?

For chain storage facilities, the employee helping you may have no idea when the company is planning to raise rates next, but they should know when the last time they were raised. If they won’t tell you when the rates last went up, it may mean that they raise them often.