Storage fire leaves tenants wondering "who has to pay?"

Palm Harbor, Florida -- Wednesday's huge fire at a storage facility in Palm Harbor destroyed millions of dollars worth of classic cars, RVs and boats.

It also raised the question of who is responsible when you put your property into storage.

You may be surprised by the answer.

Clearly, the cars and RVs damaged by the fire were insured no differently than the insurance most would have on their vehicles. But what about the property and the other personal items people had placed there?

Larry Hasiak, for example, was nearly brought to tears. His $300,000 RV burned to the ground somewhere underneath a pile of molten metal last night. He's got insurance for the vehicle, but he lost some sentimental items too.

"Family pictures and all kinds of really important things that can't be replaced with money," said Hasiak.

The fire at Florida West RV Storage Facility got people wondering what would happen if their stuff suddenly, unexpectedly went up in smoke?

Stanley Kellis, a neighbor who came by to look at the damage, said he's placed some of his own belongings in storage before, and figured the storage business was responsible.

"You're giving it to them. It's theirs for the time. They've got to protect it," he figured.

But that, industry officials say, would be an incorrect and potentially costly assumption. Storage businesses by and large do not insure your belongings.

"It's not warehousing where you're paying us to take care of your things. You're actually renting a vacant space," said Scott Kelly with the Florida Storage Association.

Kelly says your own homeowners or renters insurance may cover off-site storage, but some policies don't, so check carefully. And deductibles on such policies can be high, which is why Kelly says most storage facilities offer insurance specifically for the storage unit.

It probably won't cover flooding or mold.

"Everything else, theft, fire and all sorts of things that could possibly happen to your unit. Roof leaks. They're all covered," said Kelly.

Watch the video below of 10 Investigates' interview with the Florida Self Storage Association on how to keep your belongings safe.

Brett Clark has a boat that barely escaped major damage in the fire.

The storage facility offered him insurance, but he declined it.

Next time?

"Yeah, I'll check back into it to see what's actually available," he said.

Kelly says insurance for a typical storage space will cost about $7 or $8 a month, but can increase depending upon the value of the contents.


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