Tools stolen from occupied building

Say you have an occupied office building where building maintenance locks the doors after business hours. There is some work going on in one of the offices and tools were stolen overnight. Should the building owner reimburse the contractor for the stolen tools?
 

gadfly56

Senior Member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Professional Engineer, Fire & Life Safety
Say you have an occupied office building where building maintenance locks the doors after business hours. There is some work going on in one of the offices and tools were stolen overnight. Should the building owner reimburse the contractor for the stolen tools?
My opinion, and worth every penny you're paying for it, is no. Job site security is usually considered the responsibility of the contractor. That's why Jobox is in business. That said, it may come down to what is in the contract. There is a contract, right? Terms and conditions on the purchase order? Memorandum of understanding? Something scrawled on a napkin?

This isn't a case of bailment, such as parking your car in a public lot. You haven't "conveyed" your property to the building owner. Think of it this way. If you were an employee in the office building, and someone stole something off your desk, would you expect the building owner to reimburse you? What if your employer was a tenant and not the building owner? You might have a very remote possibility of making a claim of some sort if you could show that the normal building security measures such as locked doors and gates were either inoperable and/or left unsecured and the owner knew about the condition and refused or neglected to correct the conditions.
 
IANAL.....
If something vanishes from an controlled-access space, it's usually the responsibility of whomever controls that access (see "implied covenant"). That said, it's also on the owner of the thing to take reasonable precautions against theft (e.g. don't leave $$$ in cash sitting on a desk by the front door).

It's also a matter of degree- a couple of missing screwdrivers vs a power conduit bender or an entire Knaack box.
 

hbiss

EC, Westchester, New York NEC: 2014
Location
Hawthorne, New York NEC: 2014
Occupation
EC
This is why you don't leave anything worth anything on the job site when you are not there. If you have to, it's up to you to secure it. A locked closet or room, job trailer, job box chained to a column.

-Hal
 

Hv&Lv

Senior Member
Location
-
Occupation
Engineer/Technician
Say you have an occupied office building where building maintenance locks the doors after business hours. There is some work going on in one of the offices and tools were stolen overnight. Should the building owner reimburse the contractor for the stolen tools?
Depends on the size of the job and if you ever want to work for them again...
 

MTW

Senior Member
Location
SE Michigan
I've been there before, recessed padlocks picked on a knack job box, and relieved of power tools. I asked the plant manager if he had anybody on staff that knew how to pick locks. He said yes, and why did I want to know. Told him my gang box was relieved of it's power tools and then locked back up, then he clammed up.
From then on his prices went up, and no more storing tools in the gang box. It was the maintenance guys, on the nite shift, but I had no proof.

From that point on, I have never stored tools onsite. Designed and built a collapsible tool cart to remove them from every site, every night. Haven't lost a single item since then. That was more than 20 years ago. In my pricing I include time on every job, for carting the stuff in and out everyday. It's the cost of doing business.
SpeedBench.jpg
 

Hv&Lv

Senior Member
Location
-
Occupation
Engineer/Technician
Neat cart..
don’t see many of those things with cords wrapped on them anymore...
;)
 

jmellc

Senior Member
Location
Central NC
I've been there before, recessed padlocks picked on a knack job box, and relieved of power tools. I asked the plant manager if he had anybody on staff that knew how to pick locks. He said yes, and why did I want to know. Told him my gang box was relieved of it's power tools and then locked back up, then he clammed up.
From then on his prices went up, and no more storing tools in the gang box. It was the maintenance guys, on the nite shift, but I had no proof.

From that point on, I have never stored tools onsite. Designed and built a collapsible tool cart to remove them from every site, every night. Haven't lost a single item since then. That was more than 20 years ago. In my pricing I include time on every job, for carting the stuff in and out everyday. It's the cost of doing business.
View attachment 2552351
Wow. I’ve never seen that degree of clever thievery. Never had locks picked. Have had stuff stolen from closets & various niches. Sorry you had to deal with that. Where did this happen?

Nice cart, so it’s collapsible? Can you post other pics of it?
 

infinity

Moderator
Staff member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Journeyman Electrician
I've had all of my tools stolen from a locked gang box with recessed locks (they either had the keys or picked the locks). They stool my tools, the bosses tools and just for good measure that stole the locks too. We have a tool list of stuff that's insured, about $250 worth of tools if your stuff isn't on the list you don't get coverage. For us taking the stuff off of the job just isn't feasible.
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
If you doubt how easy it is to pick locks, go on youtube and search. It amazes me how easy it is to pick even supposedly high security locks.

Some supposed high security locks can even be bypassed without being picked.
 
If you doubt how easy it is to pick locks, go on youtube and search. It amazes me how easy it is to pick even supposedly high security locks.

Some supposed high security locks can even be bypassed without being picked.
My brother was into lockpicking when we were teenagers. While there are people who are very good and can pick a high quality lock in 10 seconds or less(as you said, see you tube) it is quite difficult for your average Joe. A cordless drill and a 3/8 drill bit and just drilling out the soft brass cylinder is a good method for those of us who don't want to spend time practicing our lock picking 😇
 
From that point on, I have never stored tools onsite. Designed and built a collapsible tool cart to remove them from every site, every night. Haven't lost a single item since then. That was more than 20 years ago. In my pricing I include time on every job, for carting the stuff in and out everyday. It's the cost of doing business.
View attachment 2552351
Honestly, most of the time I think a job site is a safer place for my tools then in the truck.
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
You can make a lock picking tool from an electric toothbrush that will open most locks in under 20 seconds. Lots of youtube videos on how to do so.

Manual picking takes a lot less practice than widely believed. Most people can learn the basic skills in an hour or less.
 

McLintock

Senior Member
Location
USA
Occupation
Electrician
Locks only keep honest people out. 99% of the time tools go with me for that reason and you never know if you may need to do a service call that night.

I use a Milwaukee Packout, I hate making multiple trips to the truck to just bring tools in


“ shoot low boys their riding shetland ponies”
 

infinity

Moderator
Staff member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Journeyman Electrician
Some gang boxes do offer better protection from lock attacks. I've picked many locks including quite a few on the jobsite. The gang boxes that have the locks completely hidden are difficult to pick even for the ubiquitous Master #5 locks which are generally easy to pick. Since the lock is up behind a metal cover a standard tension wrench won't work. I've made my own custom tensions wrenches for these boxes from windshield wiper blade inserts. This is the only type of box I would use because it does offer a bit more security.
 

paulengr

Senior Member
Some gang boxes do offer better protection from lock attacks. I've picked many locks including quite a few on the jobsite. The gang boxes that have the locks completely hidden are difficult to pick even for the ubiquitous Master #5 locks which are generally easy to pick. Since the lock is up behind a metal cover a standard tension wrench won't work. I've made my own custom tensions wrenches for these boxes from windshield wiper blade inserts. This is the only type of box I would use because it does offer a bit more security.
If I take two large say 1-1/2” open end wrenches and pry on your hardened lock (see YouTube videos) I can open your lock in ten seconds. There is also Milwaukee or a hot wrench (torch). Trust me no amount of steel can survive 12,000 degrees for more than a few seconds.
 

infinity

Moderator
Staff member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Journeyman Electrician
If I take two large say 1-1/2” open end wrenches and pry on your hardened lock (see YouTube videos) I can open your lock in ten seconds. There is also Milwaukee or a hot wrench (torch). Trust me no amount of steel can survive 12,000 degrees for more than a few seconds.
Certain gang boxes won't allow that type of attack because of the way they shroud the locks. Certainly an angle grinder can cut open a steel gang box in 5 minutes not to mention a small amount of C4 or Semtex but most thieves want to keep their activities quiet and not bring attention to the fact that they're stealing your stuff.
 

Coppersmith

Senior Member
Location
Tampa, FL, USA
If you doubt how easy it is to pick locks, go on youtube and search. It amazes me how easy it is to pick even supposedly high security locks.

Some supposed high security locks can even be bypassed without being picked.
I lost the key for a Master lock I had on a chain so I figured I'd try using my angle grinder to cut through the hasp. Master locks are supposed to be tough so I figured it would take a while. Cut through it in five seconds.
 

hillbilly1

Senior Member
Location
Atlanta,Ga
When I ran jobs, I always used American Locks on my job trailers. I was on a fairly large shopping center with two other foremen, we each had our own material trailers, I used the American Locks, the others used MasterLocks. One night someone broke into several of the trailers. They easily broke the MasterLocks off with a sledge hammer, but couldn't beat off my American Lock!
 
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