Don't Rent Your Shop to a Builder

And don't fall in love with a dreamer. And don't stick your fork in the toaster. June 23, 2006

I have an opportunity to rent my shop by the day to a local luxury home builder. He would just need it from time to time. A concern is liability, so I need to talk to my lawyer and insurance company. Basically, they would use their own hand tools, blades, bits, etc. What they need is a large heated space and the floor machines. I would gladly stay out of their way and do other things that I need to get done in my life. Also, it looks like I could make close to the same in rent as if I worked in the shop by myself. What else do I need to be concerned about?

One more thing: It's not an option to build for this builder myself, because I can't handle their time requirement. No more 100 hour work weeks for me.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor A:
I would not let anyone use my tools that way. I've got an Altendorf sliding table saw and when an occasional weekend warrior friend drops by to build his wife something, they drive me nuts and worry me to death when using my tools. Forget about the liability. When someone bends a shaft on something, uses your table saw as a work bench, or drops a $1000.00 cutter on the floor... "Oops, I'm sorry" just will not get it. I know the contractor does not really know how much your stuff costs. Say they unload a truck of lumber and stick the end of every piece in the dirt as they pull it off the truck. Guess what? Straight to the planer. I used to be mister nice guy, but no more. Call me Mr. Selfish if you want, but I've got my life savings tied up in this business and no carpenter's helper is going to use those tools. Just not worth it. Do your job and be happy that everything works the way you want it to.

From the original questioner:
I guess I can see some carpenter's helper running a 2x4 with mud and nails through the planner. This is why I brought this up - I didn't think of that.

From contributor C:
This would be a huge mistake! I believe you will get a unanimous opinion here that renting your beloved workshop to anyone would be like loaning your daughter to some guy for the weekend. It really isn't even worth considering. There are lots of ways to make money; this isn't one of them! I fail to see how he is going to get more done in your shop with you elsewhere than you could produce in your shop during those same hours. If you are suggesting that he will bring in several guys to speed up the work, guess whose equipment will pay the price for that? My shop has always been my most sacred place in the whole world, and I'm choosy about who I allow to even see it. Letting a contractor use it is unthinkable.

From contributor H:
It is not an option to build for this builder. Interesting statement. Luxury builder that just wants your shop from time to time? Sell it to him! He's trying to use you. Don't touch this, even with someone else's 10 ft pole! Any potential gain, which is minimal, will be offset by huge risks. Really huge risks. Luxury builder? Let him invest in himself and set up his own shop.

From contributor B:
Will they remember to lock up? Who pays for pilferage? Will the heat be running full blast? Lights left on? Smoking? How will you know who has a key, or how many copies are out there? How about when you have a job to get out and they're in the way and your stuff is misplaced? Who cleans up? Are you crazy?

From contributor D:
It isn't even my shop, and it gives me a sick feeling inside. I would have to agree with everyone else. Don't do it!

From contributor N:
I laugh at the talk about running dirty material through the machines. By now, I pretty much know the sound of my chopsaw compared to others. 10,000,000 miles, rebuild twice, but screams like a mother. If I hear it from another room, I go check to see who's using it, if nobody previously asked. What I found most of the time is a tile guy with a cement covered 2x4 cutting it for a curb. If I'm lucky, only covered with mud. When I try to explain to these geniuses that they cannot use my saw for the rest of my life and why, they look at me with the idiot's through look. Moral of this story: don't let tile guys use your saw... ever.

From contributor E:
I think you'd be opening a can of worms that you can do without.

From contributor U:
No. He can rent a warehouse somewhere else. As for your tools, not on your life. He can afford to buy his own tools, but then if you get free milk, why buy the cow?

From contributor S:
I agree with everyone in this thread. Maybe there is a silver streak in the clouds here. Could you possibly see if he would have any interest in buying the whole setup from you? You have nothing to lose by him saying no.

From contributor O:
You cannot rent out your shop. If you do, you are looking at major liability issues. It can be argued, in event of an injury, that you "had a duty to make it safe" for any user, or employee of the renter, and quite possibly that you had a duty to train and supervise. Consult your insurance carrier about his recommendations for your protection if you change your business from you using the equipment, to you going into the business of renting out the use of your shop and its tools.

From contributor Y:
Set up a separate company for liability and rent it out. Make the contractor pay the extra insurance. Also make a contract point about him paying for tool damage past wear and tear. You have to take a step back from the emotional part of it and make a sound business decision. If you can make as much as you say, then rent the shop out and buy another shop for yourself. There are many reasons to say yes or no to this proposal. It sounds like most of the responses so far have been emotional and not rational. If you are renting by the day, make it a minimum per month with a term contract as well (like 5 days per month for a year) so you can plan ahead. If he wants to use it more than that, you can bill him extra per month.

From contributor Z:
You could probably get the contractor to indemnify you for anything bad that might happen to him, but you cannot get the same agreement from his employee's girlfriend who stops by with her kid to bring him some lunch. Bad idea.