Each week, for the month of July, we are taking your frequently asked questions and answering them! At the end of the month we will also have a Live Interview to answer additional questions that we receive over the next 30 days. So, let’s get started by covering a question we received about abandoned equipment.
Jennifer reached out and asked the following questions. “We have some equipment that is abandoned. I downloaded the Notice of Abandonment letter you have in the Toolbox, but I wanted to make a sign or include on the service form what the timeline is for that. Do you have a recommendation? After 6 months, do I then call and send a letter? How long is appropriate before we should consider it abandoned?”
This answer comes from our BCI Dealer Success Group Manager, Jeff Blackton.
Jennifer, Thanks for your question. Being in the midst of season, this is something that many dealers are struggling with and there are a few ways that you can approach this.
1. Hang up a sign on the wall that states your policy.
We have seen signs to the effect of, “Equipment not paid for and not picked up after 30 days will be sold to recover the cost of the repair and storage.” It’s important to establish a timeline for this process. The timeline for defining what abandoned equipment is can vary from state to state, but I know of one dealer in Iowa who defines abandoned as anything still on the lot after 30 days. Before they get to the 30-day mark, they have made a phone call at day 14 and sent a certified letter at 29 days, but it’s important there is a specific timeline, so that everyone is on the same page.
2. Reach out to your Equipment Dealers Association.
If you are part of an equipment dealers association, you might reach out to them to find out if your state has a standard definition of what abandoned is and if they have a policy on limited liability already drafted for your state. Take advantage of the resources you have with your Dealer Association and make sure you are in compliance with your state laws.
3. Charge a storage fee for equipment left over 14 days.
We have some dealers who charge a $10/day storage fee for equipment not picked up. The intent with the storage fee isn’t to ever actually collect the fee, but to avoid ever having to deal with a piece of abandoned equipment. If someone leaves a piece of equipment there for 16 days, then comes and picks it up and pays for the repair, we recommend you waive the fee and let them know that you can appreciate that life gets busy and this sometimes happens to us all.
4. Add a section to the bottom on your website that states your policies.
Add a section to your website that has all your policies on it, including one about limiting liability to the cost of the repair on equipment, if the lack of having that piece of equipment causes a customer to lose profitability.
Then at the bottom of the work order, having a statement that says something to the effect of “by signing this work order, you are agreeing to the policies outlined at www.yourbusinessesname.com/policies”. You will also want a hard copy of all of your policies in a flyer format at the service counter in case a customer asks to see them before signing.
Keep in mind, laws vary from state to state. After you get your intended policies written up, I would strongly recommend reaching out the state prosecutor to have them review your policies to make sure they are in accordance with local law. Typically, when we have reached out to the state prosecutors in the past, they have a legal aid get back with us within 24-48 hours with any issues that they see. Its free and painless, and it covers your business.