Please read before renting out your own gear!
Recently, I rented out my camera equipment on KitSplit to a renter, who decided not to return it. The outcome is not a happy one, but a lesson learned for myself and hopefully anyone else who is considering renting out their equipment.
This written account is aimed towards making it crystal clear for gear owners, vendors, and future KitSplitters what type of risk and liability they are responsible for when using these types of services.
I signed up on KitSplit and was immediately drawn in by their promise for a safe and trusted community for filmmakers to rent out their gear. I thought to myself “Wow, they even have a dedicated trust page”:
One specific area that KitSplit talks about in-depth is their proprietary vetting system, even claiming it to be the “best in the business”by KitSplit co-founder Lisbeth Kaufman.
After feeling reassured by KitSplit’s safety protocols, I went ahead and listed my gear on their site. A renter named “Mark” was interested in renting my Sony A7III Kit ($3500 replacement value) for a day ($89 rental price). Minus KitSplit fees and taxes, I made $70 from this rental.
In hindsight, I should have seen the red flags from our interaction:
- Odd pickup times
- No urgency to pick up for a next-day shoot
- Didn’t bother to ask if the batteries were charged beforehand since he’s picking up gear on the morning of his shoot.
- Claimed to be a first-time renter but mentioned “I don’t ever get any messages from KitSplit.”
We eventually agreed on new pickup times and he was there, 7AM on the dot, he promised to return it in a couple hours.
But then evening came and I haven’t heard from Mark, so I reached out to him… no response. In fact, he stopped responding to my messages altogether:
After a deep pit feeling in my stomach, I immediately reported my suspicions to KitSplit:
Unable to rest since someone disappeared with $3500 of my gear, I decided to look up KitSplit’s policy for owners:
I thought, “Well, at least I’m covered by KitSplit’s insurance, they put a deposit on the renter’s card, or at the very least, my personal insurance may cover this.”
The next morning came and I followed-up with KitSplit to see if they had heard back from Mark and if not, then what our next course of action will be. This is the response they sent me:
Unexpectedly, I received this lawyer-like email from KitSplit and became introduced to the term “voluntary parting” for the first time.
voluntary parting is:
- When the renter disappears with the equipment.
- Not covered by their insurance…
- An exclusion that is stated on “every conversation page”
“KitSplit Inc. is not liable for a User’s deceptive or fraudulent acts, voluntary parting of the gear, theft of Gear, or any other loss caused by a User’s deceptive or fraudulent acts through KitSplit.”
Wait a minute, where else on the site does it state that “KitSplit Inc. is NOT liable for a User’s deceptive or fraudulent acts” ???
I mean I had to dig within the agreement terms in order to find this. Feeling confused, I googled “KitSplit voluntary parting” and this is the first article that came up on KitSplit’s website:
As you could imagine, I felt puzzled and conflicted at this point from what I’ve read and what I was being told.
On the one hand, KitSplit told me that they are not liable for any fraud or theft I experience as an owner on their platform, but on the other hand that they will work with their insurance partners to promptly fix, or replace my item.
KitSplit proceeds by telling me what actions I should take since they are not liable:
I called my insurance and asked to file a claim for stolen gear. They said sure, what happened?
I explained that I rented my camera out on KitSplit and the renter never returned it.
“I’m so sorry… but that’s voluntary parting which you don’t have coverage for. In fact, voluntary parting insurance is rare and was only available to rental houses and not owner/ops until recently. Lastly, the reason insurance companies do not offer voluntary parting insurance to renters is because they are not going to cover someone who plans on committing theft by fraud.”
Hard for me to imagine a company within the film industry not keep their word and put their vendor at a loss of $3500 (especially since our word is everything in this industry), I still had reason to believe that KitSplit, a company that promised a safe and trusted community, would do the right thing. I asked KitSplit if they charged late fees or a deposit on the full replacement value of my equipment as promised with their “secure payment processor that includes fraud protection services.”
This is what they said:
“Sorry, our insurance only covers damage and theft to the renter. Not voluntary parting to the owner.”
To be honest, things started to get emotionally stressful over the phone since I could not believe what I was being told after the amount of trust I was being asked to put into their system.
Why would any sane person rent out their gear to a stranger unless there was a third-party to keep each person accountable and provide insurance if something goes wrong.
Bottomline, I realized I handed my camera off to a thief for $70, KitSplit who facilitated this voluntary parting under the false pretense of being safe also profited from this transaction, but as the gear owner who trusted the system and signed up as a vendor on KitSplit, I’m silently given the bill of $3500. Even worse, I couldn’t help but feel at fault and had no one to blame but myself.
KitSplit continued to explain to me over the phone that in instances like this, they have worked with the NYPD and law enforcement authorities to recover stolen and missing gear in cases where the equipment value is $200,000 or more.
As a result, I asked “does that mean the authorities are going to help me with my case?”
They replied, “unfortunately no since the value of your equipment is only $3,500.”
I can confirm this statement since the SFPD filed my police report but explained to me that they would not investigate the matter or help me recover my stolen property since this is a civil dispute — meaning I needed to find the thief and negotiate with him in a civilized manner.
KitSplit clarified to me as to how Mark passed their proprietary vetting system — he stole the identity of a photographer name Mark and must have photoshopped a photo of him holding “Mark’s” I.D.
I wondered how hard it was to change my identity on KitSplit and still be verified as a trusted user:
After a series of bad news, KitSplit then said they would discuss with their co-founder Kristina on whether or not they will “partially cover” my loss out of a kind gesture on their part.
KitSplit ended the phone call on a hopeful note, “look, we’re filmmakers as well just like you so we know what you’re going through, but you have to trust me that I’m on your side and that I will talk to Kristina and do my best to make your case heard on your behalf.”
I held onto their word for the next few days waiting to hear back on their decision. I made sure to send them my receipts and proof of purchase of the items as well.
We were wrapping up a shoot in the middle of the day and I checked my phone to see if there were any good news. This is what they came back to me with:
I came to a low-point after hearing that KitSplit decided not to cover my claim without providing me with any explanation.
It was a lonely feeling to be in. Knowing that I would not receive help from insurance, law enforcement or KitSplit. Additionally, I watched my stolen property being sold on Craigslist — that was the sweet icing on the cake.
But then I discovered an important email. Not from KitSplit, but from another KitSplitter:
All of a sudden, I wasn’t alone on this. We will call this KitSplitter “Jane.” I called Jane immediately and we instantly found comfort in each other’s situation. Apparently, Mark disappeared with her camera the same day he took mine.
We felt odd that KitSplit didn’t alert us to each other’s experience or disable Mark’s profile even though this happened to two people… possibly even more.
I asked Jane how KitSplit handled her situation and she shared with me their interaction via email.
To my surprise, the emails they sent to her were almost indistinguishable from the ones that were sent to me — the only difference being our names. They sent us automated scripts tailored for this specific case.
Curious about how other companies handled this issue, I took a look at KitSplit’s competitor’s website, Sharegrid, to see what their policy on voluntary parting was.
Here is an excerpt from Sharegrid:
They both shared the same policy on volunteer parting. But the difference was how they conveyed their policy. Sharegrid details what happens if a renter does not return the gear to the rightful owner, how the act is called voluntary parting, why their insurance does not cover it and what you need as an owner to insure yourself.
On the other hand, KitSplit’s excerpt describes how voluntary parting is different from theft, how their insurance policy “may not” cover fraud or voluntary parting, and then reminds you how unlikely this will happen to you. They also make a promise that they will “do everything in their power to help you retrieve your gear,” and lastly recommends that you “consider” voluntary parting coverage for “peace of mind” without ever explicitly giving a reason as to why.
In the end, I understand that I am responsible for reading the User’s agreement terms.
However, I discovered that there has been many KitSplitters beyond Jane and I who have gone through the same predicament. It became evident that this is clearly a much larger pattern.
These owners all have reported that they felt deceived by KitSplit’s policy, did not receive support from KitSplit, and some even mentioned that their communication was cut short by KitSplit by not having their emails and phone calls returned — leaving voluntary parting cases unresolved.
A written account on this loophole felt mandatory at this point after hearing how many owners have lost their gear through KitSplit without redemption.
KitSplit promises that renters are vetted and that vendors are covered. However, if they cannot deliver on either of these promises, then they should consider discontinuing their service until they fix their errors or at the very least, cease to advertise these unreliable promises in the first place.
Because in the end, I genuinely do think that KitSplit is a great idea on paper and I want to root for them. However, their actions are far from being aligned with their core values and the promises they have made. I hope this article opens a line of dialogue between KitSplit and its vendors so that their platform can one day actually be a safe and trusted film community.
Most likely, if this was news to you, then it will be news to another filmmaker. For this reason, I would appreciate if you shared these lessons I’ve learned moving forward.
Takeaway lessons for gear owners on any rental platform:
- Document serial numbers on all your equipment and/or initial them permanently — make it evident to authorities that the property belongs to you.
- Legitimate rental houses charge the rates they do because of their insurance and liability coverage. The reason platforms like KitSplit are able to make rentals cheaper is because they do not provide the same level of insurance and liability coverage.
- Purchase comprehensive rental insurance and volunteer parting coverage if you plan on renting out your gear. Owners are 100% liable for their equipment beyond what renter’s insurance covers (damage + theft).
- Voluntary parting in most states is considered either fraud or theft by fraud. Which usually makes it a civil case instead of a crime. Therefore, law enforcement will typically not make any effort to investigate and recommend you to either pursue the renter or the company through small claims court.
- Make sure to document the renter’s physical I.D., license plate number, and receive a certificate of insurance from them in order to take the ultimate precaution.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. For this reason, don’t trust a company with a trust page.
- Assume nothing. Do your own vetting and take everything with a grain of salt. Lots and lots of salt.
Note: Please reach out if you or anyone you know have gone through a similar situation on KitSplit. We’d like to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org