What You Should Know Before Requesting Services From Any Moving Company
Hiring a professional moving company can really make your move go a lot smoother but you need to be sure you understand the rules moving companies are held to, in order to protect your own interests in the case of a miscommunication or misunderstanding in your contract.
4 quick tips to remember:
Keep the following in mind as you review quotes and choose a moving company:
1. Never sign a blank document or contract
If a moving company asks you to sign incomplete documents this is your first warning sign that they may not be the company you can trust. The FMCSA has stated that the only items that may appear incomplete in correct paperwork would be the weight of your items to be moved (on a nonbinding estimate) and unforeseen items that may result in charges during transit.
Do not get into the position on moving day where a non-professional mover could scam you with the documents you signed when they were incomplete and has added charges you never agreed to.
2. Choose your mover based on how they charge for the move
When you are shopping for a mover, ask how they base their moving fees. They’ll answer either by weight or by the amount of space your cargo takes up in the truck(s). The long-distance movers with the best reputation will quickly state that your move will be quoted on the weight of the items you are moving. Note that there are moving companies that are legitimate that will charge you on volume (the space your items take up in a truck measured in cubic feet) just be aware that it can be easier for these moving companies to overcharge you. Additionally, be aware that some movers may charge you a flat rate while others may charge you an hourly rate for completing your move.
3. Request a completed and accurate inventory list for your move
When the moving company provides you with the written estimate, be sure that you thoroughly review this document. It can also be referred to as a cube sheet or even a table of measurements. You will want to verify that no items are missed. Each piece of furniture should be listed as well as any large items that you may have in your outdoor storage, shed or attic. There should also be an estimate of the number of boxes your items will be packed in.
4. You can save money on your move by choosing the right date.
Summer is the busiest season for movers. If you cannot move during the non-peak-months you can also save by choosing a mid-week move or a move that is not over a long holiday weekend. Ask if you could save a bit by changing your moving date. You also would need to know how long the quote will be good for in case you change the move date.
Getting a quote is just the first step in hiring a mover.
Never get less than 3 estimates for the move you are trying to schedule. You also need to know the difference between an on-site quote and a virtual quote. In person quotes are much more accurate and will provide the company much more information than they can get doing a virtual walkthrough. Some of this information could be parking, tight corners to move large items through, and narrowness and grade of stairways. Remember only binding estimates will guarantee your quoted price.
Additionally you need to be sure that moving insurance is included in your quote and the type of insurance including any deductible amount.
Here is a list of points you need to review for each moving quote you receive:
1. Movers must give written estimates.
2. Movers may give binding estimates.
3. Non-binding estimates are not always accurate; actual charges may exceed the estimate.
4. If your mover provides you (or someone representing you) with any partially complete document for your signature, you should verify the document is as complete as possible before signing it. Make sure the document contains all relevant shipping information, except the actual shipment weight and any other information necessary to determine the final charges for all services performed.
5. You may request from your mover the availability of guaranteed pickup and delivery dates.
6. Be sure you understand the mover’s responsibility for loss or damage and request an explanation of the difference between valuation and actual insurance.
7. You have the right to be present each time your shipment is weighed.
8. You may request a reweigh of your shipment.
9. If you agree to move under a non-binding estimate, you should confirm with your mover—in writing—the method of acceptable payment at delivery as cash, certified check, cashier’s check, money order, or credit card.
10. Movers must offer a dispute settlement program as an alternative means of settling loss or damage claims. Ask your mover for details.
11. You should ask the person you speak to whether he or she works for the actual mover or a household goods broker. A household goods broker must not represent itself as a mover. The broker is responsible only for arranging the transportation. It does not own the trucks used to transport the shipment and is required to find an authorized mover to provide the transportation. You should know that a household goods broker generally has no authority to provide you with an estimate for the move, unless the broker has a written agreement with the household goods carrier. If a household goods broker provides you with an estimate without a written agreement with the carrier, the estimate may not be binding and you may instead be required to pay the actual charges assessed by the mover. A household goods broker is not responsible for loss or damage.
12. You may request complaint information about movers from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration under the Freedom of Information Act. You may be assessed a fee to obtain this information. See 49 CFR part 7 for the schedule of fees.
13. You should seek estimates from at least three different movers. You should not disclose any information to the different movers about their competitors, as it may affect the accuracy of their estimates.
What Is My Mover’s Normal Liability For Loss Or Damage When My Mover Accepts Goods From Me?
In general, your mover is legally liable for loss or damage that occurs during performance of any transportation of household goods and of all related services identified on your mover’s lawful Bill of Lading.
Your mover is liable for loss of, or damage to, any household goods to the extent provided in the current Surface Transportation Board’s Released Rates Order. You may obtain a copy of the current Released Rates Order by contacting the Surface Transportation Board at the address provided under the definition of the Surface Transportation Board. The rate may be increased annually by your mover based on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Cost of Living Adjustment. Your mover may have additional liability if your mover sells liability insurance to you. All moving companies are required to assume liability for the value of the goods transported. However, there are different levels of liability, and you should be aware of the amount of protection provided and the charges for each option.
Most movers offer two different levels of liability under the terms of their tariffs and the Surface Transportation Board’s Released Rates Orders.
These orders govern the moving industry. The levels of liability are as follows:
Full Value PROTECTION (FVP).
This is the most comprehensive option available for the protection of your goods. Unless you waive Full Value protection in writing and agree to Released Value Protection as described below, your shipment will be transported under your mover’s full (replacement) value level of liability. If any article is lost, destroyed, or damaged while in your mover’s custody, your mover will, at its option, either: repair the article to the extent necessary to restore it to the same condition as when it was received by your mover, or pay you for the cost of such repairs; replace the article with an article of like kind; or pay you for the cost of a replacement article at the current market replacement value, regardless of the age of the lost or damaged article. Your mover will charge you for this level of protection, or you may select the Alternative Level of Liability described below.
The cost for FVP is based on the value that you place on your shipment. For example, the valuation charge for a shipment valued at $25,000 would be about $250.00. However, the exact cost for Full Value protection may vary by mover and may be further subject to various deductible levels of liability that could reduce your cost. Ask your mover for the details and cost of its specific plan.
Under the FVP level of liability, movers are permitted to limit their liability for loss of, or damage to, articles of extraordinary value, unless you specifically list on the shipping documents such articles for which you want liability coverage. An article of extraordinary value is any item whose value exceeds $100 per pound (for example, jewelry, silverware, china, furs, antiques, oriental rugs and computer software). Ask your mover for a complete explanation of this limitation before your move. It is your responsibility to study this provision carefully and to make the necessary declaration.
Released Value Protection
This is the most economical protection option available; however, this no-cost option provides only minimal protection. Under this option, the mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound per article. Loss or damage claims are settled based on the weight of the article multiplied by 60 cents per pound. For example, if a 10-pound stereo component valued at $1,000 were lost or destroyed, the mover would be liable for no more than $6.00 (10 pounds x 60 cents per pound). Obviously, you should think carefully before agreeing to such an arrangement. There is no extra charge for this minimal protection, but you must sign a specific statement on the Bill of Lading agreeing to it. If you do not select this Alternative Level of Liability, your shipment will be transported at the Full (Replacement) Value level of liability and you will be assessed the applicable valuation charge.
These two levels of liability are not insurance agreements governed by State insurance laws but instead are contractual tariff levels of liability authorized under Released Rates Orders of the Surface Transportation Board of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In addition to these options, some movers may also offer to sell, or procure for you, separate liability insurance from a third-party insurance company when you release your shipment for transportation at the minimum released value (60 cents per pound [$ 1.32 per kilogram] per article). This is not valuation coverage governed by Federal law but optional insurance regulated under State law. If you purchase this separate coverage and your mover is responsible for loss or damage, the mover is liable only for an amount not exceeding 60 cents per pound ($1.32 per kilogram) per article, and the balance of the loss is recoverable from the insurance company up to the amount of insurance purchased. The mover’s representative can advise you of the availability of such liability insurance, and the cost.
If you purchase liability insurance from or through your mover, the mover is required to issue a policy or other written record of the purchase and to provide you with a copy of the policy or other document at the time of purchase. If the mover fails to comply with this requirement, the mover becomes fully liable for any claim for loss or damage attributed to its negligence.
What Actions By The Customer Limit Or Reduce The Mover’s Normal Liability?
Your actions may limit or reduce your mover’s normal liability under the following three circumstances:
1. You include perishable, dangerous, or hazardous materials in your household goods without your mover’s knowledge.
2. You choose the alternative level of liability (60 cents per pound per article) but ship household goods valued at more than 60 cents per pound ($1.32 per kilogram) per article.
3. You fail to notify your mover in writing of articles valued at more than $100 per pound ($220 per kilogram). (If you do notify your mover, you will be entitled to full recovery up to the declared value of the article or articles, not to exceed the declared value of the entire shipment.)11
What Are Dangerous Or Hazardous Materials That May Limit Or Reduce The Mover’s Normal Liability?
Federal law forbids you to ship hazardous materials in your household goods boxes or luggage without informing your mover. A violation can result in 5 years’ imprisonment and penalties of $250,000 or more (49 U.S.C. 5124). You could also lose or damage your household goods by fire, explosion, or contamination.
If you offer hazardous materials to your mover, you are considered a hazardous materials shipper and must comply with the hazardous materials requirements in 49 CFR parts 171, 172, and 173, including but not limited to package labeling and marking, shipping papers, and emergency response information. Your mover must comply with 49 CFR parts 171, 172, 173, and 177 as a hazardous materials carrier.
Hazardous materials include explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids and solids, oxidizers, poisons, corrosives, and radioactive materials. Examples: Nail polish remover, paints, paint thinners, lighter fluid, gasoline, fireworks, oxygen bottles, propane cylinders, automotive repair and maintenance chemicals, and radio-pharmaceuticals.
There are special exceptions for small quantities (up to 70 ounces total) of medicinal and toilet articles carried in your household goods and certain smoking materials carried on your person. For further information, contact your mover.
May The Mover Have Agents?
Yes, your mover may have agents. If your mover has agents, your mover must have written agreements with its prime agents. Your mover and its retained prime agent must sign their agreements. Copies of your mover’s prime agent agreements must be in your mover’s files for a period of at least 24 months following the date of termination of each agreement.
What Items Must Be In The Mover’s Advertisements?
Your mover must publish and use only truthful, straightforward, and honest advertisements. Your mover must include certain information in all advertisements for all services (including any accessorial services incidental to or part of interstate transportation). Your mover must require each of its agents to include the same information in its advertisements. The information must include the following two pieces of information about your mover:
1. Name or trade name of the mover under whose U.S. DOT number the advertised service will originate.
2. U.S. DOT number assigned by FMCSA authorizing your mover to operate. Your mover must display the information as: U.S. DOT No. (assigned number).
You should compare the name or trade name of the mover and its U.S. DOT number to the name and U.S. DOT number on the sides of the truck(s) that arrive at your residence. The names and numbers should be identical. If the names and numbers are not identical, you should ask your mover immediately why they are not. You should not allow the mover to load your household goods on its truck(s) until you obtain a satisfactory response from the mover’s local agent. The discrepancies may warn of problems you will have later in your business dealings with this mover.
How Must The Mover Handle Complaints And Inquiries?
All movers are expected to respond promptly to complaints or inquiries from you, the customer. Should you have a complaint or question about your move, you should first attempt to obtain a satisfactory response from the mover’s local agent, the sales representative who handled the arrangements for your move, or the driver assigned to your shipment.
If for any reason you are unable to obtain a satisfactory response from one of these persons, you should then contact the mover’s principal office. When you make such a call, be sure to have available your copies of all documents relating to your move. Particularly important is the number assigned to your shipment by your mover.
Interstate movers are also required to offer neutral arbitration as a means of resolving consumer disputes involving loss of or damage to your household goods shipment and disputes regarding charges that your mover billed in addition to those collected at delivery. Your mover is required to provide you with information regarding its arbitration program. You have the right to pursue court action under 49 U.S.C. 14706 to seek judicial redress directly rather than participate in your mover’s arbitration program.
All interstate moving companies are required to maintain a complaint and inquiry procedure to assist their customers. At the time you make the arrangements for your move, you should ask the mover’s representative for a description of the mover’s procedure, the telephone number to be used to contact the mover, and whether the mover will pay for such telephone calls. Your mover’s procedure must include the following four things:
1. A communications system allowing you to communicate with your mover’s principal place of business by telephone.
2. A telephone number.
3. A clear and concise statement about who must pay for complaint and inquiry telephone calls.
4. A written or electronic record system for recording all inquiries and complaints received from you by any means of communication.
Your mover must give you a clear and concise written description of its procedure. You may want to be certain that the system is in place.
Full Service to Do-it-Yourself Movers
Moving is an exciting, stress-filled, time. You look forward to living in a new location, and getting a fresh start in a new environment—but actually getting all your possessions to your new place can be a daunting challenge. In this critical time, you need a partner who understands the process, and can take on much of the burden on your behalf. Over 53% of consumers use United Vanlines and Mayflower when planning relocation.
When you move with Liberty Moving, you are assigned a residential moving specialist to coordinate all of your dates and paperwork. As your single point of contact, your move coordinator will help you stay organized and on track as your moving day approaches, and is available to answer questions and help you solve challenges on the fly. Contact us to schedule your moving quote today!