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Woman's valuables destroyed in storage unit by rodents; insurance, storage company 'not responsible' for over $70,000 in loses

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BATON ROUGE - A woman's possessions were destroyed by rats and she contacted 2 On Your Side after getting nowhere on her own.

Michelle Dow started storing the contents of her house at the Life Storage on Old Hammond Highway in Baton Rouge in 2002. She sold her home after a divorce and needed a place to put the items until she found a new house. Dow says she ended up storing the items for a lot longer than she had planned and it wasn't until a couple of years ago did she notice rat droppings here and there throughout the unit. Dow says she let the management at Life Storage know what she found.

"She said they were aware and they were treating it," said Dow.

A few weeks ago, Dow visited the unit and start organizing her belongings for a move.

"Everything in there was saturated in rat urine or rat feces," she said.

Dow spent hours sifting through her items, most of which she had to throw out. Finding a rat carcass was the last straw and she says she pretty much gave up after that.

Dow is in a difficult position now, since her homeowner's policy doesn't cover damage by vermin and Life Storage says it's not responsible either.

"They said they're sorry but they're not responsible for the contents, they're responsible for the structure of the building," said Dow.

Last month, 2 On Your Side reached out to Life Storage after Dow said they weren't helping her. After performing a thorough investigation of the situation, Life Storage offered Dow $3,000. Life Storage says, "We feel the settlement offered is consistent with the loss associated with her claim of damaged property."

Life Storage asked Dow to provide a list of all her belongings that were lost in the mess. Dow values her items lost at about $30,000.

Since 2002, Dow says she's spent $71,000 storing her items at Life Storage.

"I'm just exhausted from this whole process," she said.

While she was moving the items out of the unit, Dow found two holes at the rear of the locker where outside light shined through. She says her boyfriend went around to take a look and found that you could stick items through them.

After learning that the rats might have had a way in and out of her unit, she doesn't think that she has been treated fairly. Dow says if Life Storage had been taking care of the unit like they said they were, she wouldn't be in this position.

Life Storage says customers have the option of purchasing insurance through them. That insurance is specifically designed for storage and is offered through a third party insurer to cover damage of stored contents.


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