Jamie Tait received a shock on Sunday when he paid a visit to the Vancouver storage facility where he had rented a locker for the last five years.
“It was gone. A mess … just rubble and machines,” he said.
West End Mini Storage, at 1460 Howe St., was one of seven properties purchased and levelled by Westbank Corporation to make way for Vancouver House, its 59-storey tower being constructed at the foot of the Granville Street Bridge.
Tait estimates the contents of his locker — which he says included a 1967 Vox Mark VI guitar, music equipment, an extensive comic book collection and video game collection — was worth more than $10,000.
Other items, like personal artwork and items from his childhood are irreplaceable, he said.
“I’m more than angry, I’m heartbroken,” he said.
Westbank Corporation spokeswoman Jill Killeen says every effort was made to contact customers last year when it was deemed that the facility would be demolished.
“Notices went up advising people that the storage facility would be closing. The storage facility team was very proactive in reaching out to customers,” she said. “In cases where they weren’t able to reach customers by email or telephone, they sent out letters and even walked over letters to residential buildings.”
Tait claims he never received any warning. He only checked on his locker Sunday because he just noticed his regular monthly storage rental of $51.45 was no longer being charged to his credit card.
He hadn’t realized that West End Mini Storage had stopped charging him since October.
“Over the weekend my girlfriend and I were discussing moving and I had mentioned that I wanted to put some of my more delicate things in storage so that they don’t get damaged. In taking a quick glance at my MasterCard statements noticed that over the past couple months, (West End Mini Storage) hadn’t taken money out to cover costs,” said Tait, who says he supplied the storage company with updated contact information and a new credit card number last April. “Why would they stop taking the money from my account and leave me in the dark? Are there others in the same boat as me?
“They have my phone number … I’ve always had same phone number.”
As for his stuff, which also included mementoes from his childhood, it would have been either sold or disposed of when the facility closed last fall.
“However, (Tait’s locker) contents that have been described are not something that the storage facility team was aware of or even remembers seeing,” said Killeen. “The property would not be randomly discarded.”
The Canadian Self Storage Association doesn’t have a guideline for storage facilities that are closing down.
“It just doesn’t happen. This is the first time in 21 years that I have heard of one shutting down,” said Sue Margeson, CSSA director. “Storage facilities are in very high demand and there is always a waiting list of people looking to buy existing storage facilities.”
In Vancouver, however, where prime real estate is worth nearly $1,400 per square foot according to Commercial Real Estate Service of Canada, money-making storage facilities do indeed get purchased and torn down.
Another storage facility, South Vancouver Mini-Public Storage, located two blocks from the Marine Drive Canada Line station, closed in 2013 and is listed for sale with an asking price of $7.88 million.
Margeson says Tait’s ordeal is a cautionary tale for people who rent storage lockers. She advises customers to check on their lockers regularly and take out insurance — or at least make sure the locker is covered by home insurance — if the contents are valuable.