With rental property weekly averages around Australia on the rise, people are now starting to looking into alternative living measures. Unfortunately, people are looking into the wrong places. Storage units are one of the many places people are now trying to move into. This is mainly due to the cost of a storage unit per week being far less than a rental property. It is a rising issue and one that needs to be addressed.
Is it legal?
There is a reason why storage units aren't sold or marketed as a new home or room for rent. It is because they aren't legally allowed to be lived in. These units were built for storage, not for living and therefore they do not adhere to any habitable building codes standards.
I pay for the space why can't I stay in there?
This is a common question that gets asked over and over again. There is a lot of speculation around the answer but put simply it is not classed as a habitable space and therefore it would be classed as illegal to live within that space.
Habitable vs Uninhabitable
A habitable dwelling has facilities and amenities like toilets, showers, kitchen, laundry sinks, lights, insulation and normally flooring.
There are minimum standards set by the Building Code of Australia that determine whether a dwelling is habitable or uninhabitable. A natural light minimum which is calculated based on floor area in a room is just one example. In fact, the BCA requires that a room must have a window opening that is a minimum of 10% of the floor area to be deemed a habitable room.
What are the minimum standards?
When dwellings are designed and built they need to meet the safety (structural and fire), health, amenity and sustainability requirements of the Building Code of Australia (BCA). Due to storage units not being purpose build for living they do not meet these requirements and in fact are harmful towards your health and well being and can cause unnecessary illness. For more information feel free to visit Australian Building Code Board Website or Residential Design Codes of WA.
You no doubt signed an agreement when you started renting your storage unit. If you look into the terms and conditions of service you will find that all storage unit facilities will clearly state in some way that you are to use the space for storage only not for living. An agreement /contract or terms and conditions from your storage facility is not to be confused with a Residential Tenancy Agreement.
Related Health Hazards
There is a lot of hazards also associated with living in a storage unit such as:
- Unsafe oxygen levels - Once your furniture is in your unit the oxygen in the space is almost halved. This can cause suffocation.
- Hazardous substances - Due to poor airflow things like deodorant can be potentially life-threatening in an enclosed space.
- Harmful atmospheric contaminants - Not having a toilet plumbed in would require you to improvise to which most would use a bucket. Having this harmful contaminant in an enclosed space can cause you to hallucinate and potentially uncontrollably self-harm.
- No showering amenities which can cause:
- Germs - harmful bacteria over time will find its way into your body and cause you to become really sick.
- Skin Infections - some bacteria can become fungi and can cause severe skin infections.
- Dermatitis Neglecta - after a time of not washing your skin will develop brown scaly patches.
- Odour - you may not be able to smell it but everyone else will be able to.
- Extreme temperatures - Due to storage units being made out of solid concrete and no insulation, the elements with the inside of the unit can be intensified.
Just because something sounds like a good idea at first doesn't mean that it is. There is always another option than living in a storage unit. There are many different agencies that specializise in housing that can give you a helping hand if you need one.
Some helpful links:
- National Rental Affordability Scheme
- Bond Assistance Loan Scheme
- Public Housing
- Housing Authority of WA