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How to make money renting your items
If you're running out of storage space with crammed cupboards and your shed and loft are fit to burst it could be time to make some money from your clutter.
It's estimated we hoard over £50 billion of unloved items, with research from LV= showing one in 10 of us stockpile £1,000 of stuff we don't use. And a million of us pay for storage using a growing number of self-storage sites.
Let's be honest: most of us have things hidden away gathering dust that we don't want to sell because we do actually get round to using them occasionally. Take that bike rack you used on your holiday, the carpet cleaner that comes out twice a year, or your pet carrier, which only makes cameo appearances for vet visits or kennel trips.
Hiring your clutter for cash is becoming big business and this month sees the launch of rentmyitems.com, the newest entrant to an online marketplace that currently includes sites like ecomodo.com, rentnotbuy.co.uk and zilok.co.uk.
The idea is simple. You've got something you're not using right now so you offer it for hire. It could be a day, a week or longer. Some sites allow you to post items all year round, using an online calendar to block out times when they're booked for rent or you want to use them yourself.
How much can you make?
This depends what you're hiring but, as a rough guide, you can make £15 loaning a bike rack for the weekend, £70 a week for a carpet cleaner, £15 a day for a jet pressure washer, £5 a day for your pet carrier and £20 a day for a sewing machine.
Seasonal items like tents can fetch up to £60 a day depending on size. And, while you're unlikely to make enough to give up your day job, hiring out just a couple of big items a month could boost your income by around £500 a year.
How rental sites work
First up you need to register on your chosen site, post a description of what you're offering, ideally along with a picture, and say how much you want for it.
As you would when selling on eBay, write an accurate and honest description and be clear what condition the item is in. Decide whether you want to hire on a daily or weekly basis, or both, and what you charge is down to you although it's worth checking the 'going rates' from other lenders so you don't price yourself out of the market.
Most sites are very community oriented - borrowers aren't going to trek from Kent to Cornwall for a short-term loan - so check prices in your area rather than across the country.
Some sites, like rentnotbuy, are run on a 'not for profit' basis so there are no fees or commission to pay for listing, while others charge either a flat fee or commission per deal basis. Commission charges range from 6% with Ecomodo, up to 9% with Zilok, and other sites such as rentmyitems have a flat £1 an item listing fee.
Prospective borrowers can contact you via email or through the site's internal messaging system (if it has one), and it's up to you to decide who you want to lend to and fix a day and time for collection.
On the flipside, if you want to make serious cash you must be prepared to have a trail of complete strangers bowling up at your door and you may have to be unfussy about collection times if you want the business.
Depending on which site you use, the method of payment varies. With some, like rentmyitems, you'll get cash on the doorstep (unless you've agreed otherwise), whereas with ecomodo it's PayPal-only through the site.
In this case the borrower pays ecomodo, who in turn pay you; holding back any deposit until you're happy with the safe return of your item. It's worth knowing, though, that any PayPal protection only extends to 'purchases' and you won't get the same protection when 'lending' items.
Items to be careful about hiring
Most sites have a list in the small print of things you can't hire including the obvious like live animals, and with others it includes valuables such as jewellery and mobile phones.
Be careful if you're looking to regularly rent out electrical items as you can run into problems unless they've been safety checked by a qualified electrician, according to Trading Standards spokesperson Christine Heemskerk.
Under the Electrical Equipment Safety Regulations 1995, you're responsible for the safety of the item. While a 'one off-loan' (or sale) is unlikely to land you in hot water, hiring an unsafe lawnmower once a month could be deemed a 'regular basis', and being in breach of the regulations is a criminal offence carrying a £5,000 fine.
Meanwhile, hiring seemingly innocuous items like DVDs, books or CDs can also land you in trouble for copyright infringement as "under section 18A of the Copyright Designs and Patent Act 1988 you can be prosecuted", according to Simon Baggs, a copyright expert from law firm Wiggin LLP.
Protecting your clutter
The extra cash you can get may be handy, but you've also got to weigh up the risk if something gets lost or damaged.
What you'll get in terms of protection varies. Ecomodo has the option for you to ask for both a deposit and insurance. This insurance covers loss and accidental damage and, as a lender, you won't pay more as the insurance is factored into the rental cost of your item.
Others, like rentmyitems, don't offer insurance and, while you can arrange to take a deposit, if things get awkward you're pretty much on your own. "A lot of the process is based on trust", says founder Warren Heal. While they can shut down a bad borrower's account there's no sure fire way of recouping any loss.
Just as you would when buying on eBay, check someone's 'feedback' before you agree to a deal. Most sites operate some sort of scoring system, along with the chance to add comments so you know how reliable borrowers are.
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