We’ve seen a rise in enquiries from construction hire businesses lately who want to know if we can help them deal with the crime wave their trade is facing.

I’m not Batman – though I do have a Robyn as an excellent sidekick. Nevertheless, we have been able to give these small businesses some tips on how to deal with the problem.

Specifically, they are finding that increasing numbers of customers are failing to return the concrete mixer, the portable generator, the pallet trucks or the rollers, drills and planers and other tools and equipment after the hire period has expired, often claiming it has been ‘stolen’.

Claim on insurance

The hire business is hit by the loss on several fronts.

They lose income immediately because they can’t hire the item out to anyone else until they replace it.

They have to take the time to claim on their own insurance – making it likely that the premium will rise at renewal time.

And insurance is unlikely to cover the total cost of replacement, leaving the merchant out of pocket.

Often, it is a case of tightening up procedures. Sometimes, it means creating a new process or rule on payments.

Customer contacts

Here are some useful steps to think about if you find yourself in the same position:

Check you have all of the customer contact details on file and ask where they are going to be using the equipment and when

Ask for a deposit. If they offer a credit card, be strict: if the card is declined, don’t just ‘let them have the equipment anyway’.

Do you have a location hire insurance agreement so that if the equipment is lost or stolen, you can claim back the cost of replacing it?

Are they insured?

Is the customer insured? Are they happy to pay your insurance as part of the cost of hire? If not, do they have proof they can claim it on their own insurance?

Ask the person whether they have hired equipment from anyone in the past – if so, why are they coming to you now? Is it because someone else put a stop on them?

Have they had to make insurance claims in the past for stolen or lost equipment? If so, how many?

It’s always much better to be prepared and head off problems before they arise. All of the above can help you avoid court action. While it may seem time-consuming to ask them these questions and take down the details, it’s much more time-consuming to take them to court to recover the cost of your property.