Moving Services

Choosing a Mover:
Choosing the right mover can mean the difference between a relatively painless move and a harrowing one.

1. Get recommendations from friends or from reputable real estate agents.
2. Ask interstate movers for a copy of their Annual Performance Report, which provides information about the number of claims filed against the firm for lost or damaged goods, how often the firm made late deliveries, and how often it incorrectly estimated the final cost of a move.
3. Check mover's ratings with the Better Business Bureau.
4. Get written estimates from at least three movers. An estimate given over the phone is unlikely to be accurate.
5. Contact local associations of the moving industry, like the New York State Movers & Warehousemens Association, for referrals.

Estimates:
There are two types of estimates : binding and non-binding
Binding Estimates are a with a guaranteed price. When you receive a binding estimate, you cannot be required to pay any more of the amount of the estimate. It must be in writing and a copy given to you before the move.
Non-Binding Estimates do not bind the mover to a price. It is the estimator's best guess at the cost of your move. There is no guarantee that the final cost will not be more than the estimate. If you are given a non-binding estimate, the mover cannot require you to pay more than the amount of the original estimate plus 10 percent, at the time of delivery. You will have 30 days after the date of delivery to pay any remaining charges.

Order for Service:
Moving Companies are required to prepare an order for service on every shipment transported from an individual shipper. Your are entitled to a copy of the order for service when it is prepared. The order for service is not a contract. It will note the estimated charge of the move, any special services you require, such as packing and storage, and pick-up and delivery dates.

Bill of Lading Contract:
The bill of lading is the contract between you and the mover. The mover is required by law to prepare a bill of lading for every shipment it transports. The information on a bill of lading is required to be the same information shown on the order for service. The driver who loads your shipment must give you a copy of the bill of lading before loading your furniture. You must also sign the bill of lading. It is your responsibility to read the bill of lading before you sign it. If you do not agree with something, do not sign it until you are satisfied it shows the service you want. The bill of lading requires the mover to provide the service you have requested, and you must pay the mover the charges for the service. The bill of lading is an important document. Do not lose or misplace your copy. Have it available until your shipment is delivered, all charges are paid and all claims, if any, are settled.

Packing:
If you find your own boxes and pack your belongings yourself, you may be able to save a significant amount of money. You may have more difficulty prevailing a claim if your goods are damaged. However, according to a survey conducted by Consumer Reports, just over half of the people who paid the movers to pack reported damage, while only a third of those who packed their own things did. Ask the movers in advance about their liability policy on self-packed cartons. Items that are very vulnerable or irreplaceable, such as jewelry, family photos, and important documents, should be packed separately and carried with you.

Insurance:
Movers generally provide three types of protection for your goods in case they are lost or damaged: limited liability, added valuation and full value.
Limited liability is the basic coverage required by law, and it does not cost the consumer anything. Under limited liability, the mover is responsible for sixty cents per pound per item for an interstate move, and thirty cents per pound for a move within New York State. So if the mover drops a ten pound television set, the company may owe you as little as six dollars, despite the TV's actual worth.
Added valuation allows you to collect the amount based on the current replacement value of the item, minus depreciation. The amount you pay for this coverage depends on how much you declare your goods are worth.
Full-value is the highest cost and covers the actual cost of an item's replacement or repair, without any deductive for depreciation. Before purchasing coverage from the moving company, you may want to check your homeowner's insurance policy to see if it will cover your goods during a move. Call your insurance company to find out how much they would charge to insure your goods during a move, and compare the options and prices they offer to the moving company's. If your employer is paying for the move, find out if any special insurance is available through your company.

Weighing the Shipment:
Most interstate movers charge consumers a rate based on the weight of the goods and the distance they are carried, plus charges for packing and special services. A few interstate movers charge according to the volume of goods (how much space they take up in the truck). The vehicle is weighed before your goods are loaded (the tare weight) and after (the gross weight) to determine the shipment's net weight. You have the right to be present at all weigh-ins. If the net weight sounds too high, you have the right to ask for a second weighing before the delivery, at no cost to you. If the goods weight more at the second weighing, you must pay the higher rate.

Filing a Claim:
If anything is lost or damaged during the move, ask the moving company for a claim form, and fill it out as soon as possible (you have 9 months from the date of delivery to file a claim). The movers must acknowledge the claim within 30 days and they must dent that claim or make a settlement offer within 120 days. In 1995, Congress passed the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act, which, among other things, imposed dispute resolution obligations on interstate household goods carriers. The Act requires interstate carriers to provide collect-on-delivery shippers an arbitration program for disputes involving damage or loss to household goods of $1,000 or less. Specifically, interstate carriers must:

  • Arbitrate such claims if the shipper requests. For claims in excess of $1,000, the shipper and the interstate carrier may agree to arbitrate, but neither party is required to do so. The law explicitly precludes interstate carriers from requiring shippers to arbitrate any claims.
  • Provide notice of the arbitration program to shippers before a move. The notice must be concise, easy to read and accurate. It must summarize the arbitration program and disclose the fees and the legal effects of choosing arbitration to resolve the dispute.
  • Provide shippers with any forms or other information necessary to initiate arbitration.

The BBB suggests you obtain a reliability report on moving companies you are considering using. If you have specific questions regarding dispute resolution obligations, you can contact the Federal Highway Administration of the Department of Transportation at (202)366-0160 or www.fhwa.dot.gov.

Moving doesn't have to be a terrible, difficult experience. If you explain in advance, choose your mover carefully, consider your liability options, and read all the fine print, you're on your way to a successful move.

This information is general in nature and is not intended as a reliability report on any company, product, or service.