Hiring furniture could not be easier today, as rental companies name flexibility as key in the quest to win new business, reports Iona Walton.
Relocating to a new town, region or country is a busy and stressful time for top executives and their families. While thinking about what kind of furniture will be available in the new living quarters may not seem a top priority, the reality is that if the employee does not feel comfortable, productivity levels may slip.
Just as importantly, if family members are not at home in their surroundings, difficult times for all may be around the corner.
Renting a property is an attractive alternative to staying in hotels or temporary accommodation, which can be expensive, impersonal and particularly unsuitable if a whole family is being relocated. While renting a furnished property is an option, the furniture and goods that come with the flat or house probably will not be what the individual would have chosen. In addition, if furniture and household goods are being shipped a few weeks later, renting furnished accommodation cannot be considered.
One choice is to buy new furniture and other household goods for the entire house or apartment. The disadvantage of going down this route is that it takes time and involves major capital outlay. Depreciation is steep and, irrespective of the length of the stay, it can be difficult to dispose of the items. Recouping more than a small fraction of what was originally paid is unlikely.
Renting unfurnished accommodation and hiring furniture and other equipment is an attractive and cost-effective option for medium and longer stays. Hiring furniture can make good sense for the duration of the assignment, or to bridge the gap until the tenant`s own furniture arrives, although shipping household goods is expensive and inconvenient and it may be easier to hire for the duration of the stay. Many companies have furniture rental as a facility within their relocation policy.
Who rents furniture?
Iain Crichton, Client Services Director for The Furniture Rental Company, explains that those using rental furniture fall into four main categories.
`We target corporate human resource and international mobility professionals who manage their assignees’ relocation into and out of the UK,` says Iain. `Relocation agents and global vendor management companies who work on behalf of corporate clients and manage their newly arriving assignees’ expectations (including finding property and furniture when needed) also call on our services, as do individual corporate assignees perhaps those without assisted relocation packages who need rental furniture. The fourth sector is investor landlords, letting agents and private tenants (for rental and home staging).
Situations obviously vary. Remember that furniture from the US and some other countries does not always fit into houses in the UK (which tend to be smaller) so, from this point of view, renting is also a helpful option.
`Corporate relocatees may find the perfect unfurnished house for the duration of their assignment, but prefer not to ship their own furniture because it`s unsuitable for their new destination,` Iain Crichton says. And, of course, renting can be cheaper than shipping furniture, which involves costs on arrival and departure, plus insurance costs.
How does it work?
`The assignee will usually work directly with the furniture rental company to determine exactly what they require, depending on lifestyle, property configuration and budget,` says Roger Hollis, Managing Director of Roomservice Group. `Prices vary significantly, depending on the duration of the rental and the requirement of the client. For example, prices start from £174 a month for a three-year two-bedroom property; this rises to £296 a month for a three-year four-bedroom property.
In addition to furniture, just about everything you need for the home is available through many furniture rental companies, from kitchenware, towels and linen to electrical equipment and household appliances.
Furniture rental companies tend to have a supervisor present at every installation to troubleshoot and to ensure that furniture is correctly installed, kitchenware unpacked and beds made up, and that all packaging is removed from the property by the delivery team.
Renting furniture is tax efficient, because VAT on rental charges is recoverable by UK registered companies. Furniture rental payments are fully deductible as a business expense.
Terms and conditions
People considering renting furniture need to discuss the minimum rental period they will be charged for with the rental company. The industry norm is one month`s rental, even if furniture is only required for two weeks.
If the contract has to be terminated early, cancellation charges will apply, and this should be made clear in the terms and conditions. On the other hand, if the contract needs to be extended, it can probably continue on a monthly basis, but this should be thrashed out before any contract is signed.
Insurance is another area that needs to be examined, explains Iain Crichton. `We insure all our furniture and accessories against loss by fire, flood and theft (when there has been forced entry or exit to locked premises). The cost of this insurance is included in our monthly rental charge. Goods are not insured against accidental or malicious damage.
Other areas to look into are payment terms, deposits and deductions, plus the sort of amounts that are likely to be involved. Customers need to know the amount they have to pay in advance with cleared funds, and the cost of subsequent payments by standing order after that.
What to look for
When choosing a furniture rental company, look for good, reliable, responsive and honest service. Flexibility also seems to be a key selling point for furniture rental companies as they vie for business. Says Roger Hollis,`There should be flexibility of choice, and the needs of a particular assignee at all levels within an organisation should be met.
Essentially, providers need to understand the assignee`s requirements and be sensitive to the fact that relocation can be a stressful experience for the family, says Roger Hollis.
Providers seem to change their stock as and when they need to. Those who buy cheap items have to replace their stock more often, which is not cost effective or environmentally friendly in the long run. `In general, stock is changed every three years, or whenever it begins to look tired,` Roger Hollis says. `Styles are always fashion-led, but with a conservative accent to accommodate a multitude of individual tastes. Once styling has been established, quality and comfort are the most important features.
As it becomes clear that keeping the stress of relocation to a minimum is essential for health, happiness and productivity, renting furniture is becoming increasingly straightforward and flexible. It will be interesting to see how, in the future, furniture rental companies evolve further to stay ahead of the competition.