Neighbors' revenge: Counties crack down on storage pods
By Elizabeth Razzi
By Elizabeth Razzi
WASHINGTON — Oh, no. The neighbors have brought in PODS.
These portable storage containers can be one of the first hints that a home is being prepared for sale. They promise a more convenient alternative to schlepping junk out to a mini-warehouse. The big box is in your driveway; you have the only key; you can load and unload on your own schedule.
It's just that neighbors often fail to see the charm of PODS, or the equally garish boxes rented out by the many competitors to that market-leading company, Portable On Demand Storage. That's especially so when the boxes remain for months.
If they're on the street, they tie up parking space and can be a traffic hazard. Elsewhere, they're just ugly, with giant logos and 1-800 phone numbers plastered on the sides.
Driven by complaining constituents, some local governments are drafting regulations to make the containers a little less convenient — and sometimes quite a bit more expensive.
"The jurisdictions are starting to crack down, if you will, on containerized storage," said Tom Johnston, an owner of Store to Door, a company in the Washington region.
It's the homeowner's responsibility to comply with regulations about container placement. You're less likely to owe fees if you can place the container in your driveway or the back of the house. But even if it's in a driveway, some jurisdictions balk if the box remains for more than a month.
Neighbors may object even sooner. A friendly reassurance that you don't intend to keep it there long goes a long way toward keeping the peace. And by all means, get rid of the box before putting your home up for sale. Why go through all the trouble of decluttering only to have the container announce that the house lacks storage space?
One reason the boxes linger is that rentals typically are for a minimum of one month. You can have it hauled away after a week or two, but you would still owe a full month's rent. If customers were to pay for only a few days, it wouldn't bring in enough revenue to cover delivery costs, according to Johnston. "We lose money on every delivery," he said. "I'm a storage guy."
Container rental is not inexpensive. Renting a 12-foot-long unit from PODS for a month would cost about $385. Local government permits and fees can add significantly to the cost, especially if you have to pay in both your old and new neighborhoods. The fees could make it less expensive to hire full-service movers.
For example, to place a container on a street in suburban County, Md., a renter must pay a $137.50 fee and post a $1,000 bond to compensate the county if the box damages the street. Boxes left on the street for more than a few days cost more. A renter who leaves a container out for more than 30 days could be asked to move it to the backyard and obtain a permit for constructing a shed.
"Some folks are using it for long-term storage, and essentially it becomes a shed, and that is not allowed in the driveway," said Gail Lucas, Montgomery County permitting services manager.
Allow several weeks to get permission from local governments and any condo or homeowners' associations.
Don't forget insurance. If the container remains on your property or curbside, your belongings will be covered under your homeowners insurance policy, said Donna Haight, personal lines account manager at Ney-Silverman Insurance, an independent agency in Rockville, Md. Once the box is hauled away, however, your coverage would decline to 10 percent of the personal property insurance coverage specified in your policy.
"We recommend purchasing insurance through the movers," Haight said.