Ready to Move?
More than 35 million Americans move each year for personal reasons and career opportunities. It’s a significant event in anyone’s life. Your money and your life’s memories are at stake. It can be stressful, even under the best of circumstances. The Federal government, state and local law enforcement agencies, and the legitimate moving industry have joined forces to combat moving fraud, but you have an important role to play as well. If you’re planning to move, it’s important to do your research and plan for a smooth move.
Spot Moving Fraud
Rogue movers typically work like this: Without ever visiting your home or seeing the goods you want moved, they give a low estimate over the telephone or Internet. Once your goods are on their truck, they demand more money before they will deliver or unload them. They hold your goods hostage and force you to pay more — sometimes much more than you thought you had agreed to — if you want your possessions back. Your best defense is to recognize a rogue mover before they have your goods.
Here are things to spot for a fraudulent over:
- The mover doesn’t offer or agree to an onsite inspection of your household goods and gives an estimate over the telephone or online — sight unseen. These estimates often sound too good to be true. They usually are.
- The moving company demands cash or a large deposit before the move.
- The mover asks you to sign blank or incomplete documents.
- The mover does not provide a written estimate (can be binding or non-binding).
- The mover doesn’t provide you with a copy of the Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move booklet and a copy of FMCSA’s Ready to Move brochure, which movers are required by Federal regulations to supply to their customers in the planning stages of interstate moves.
- The company’s website has no local address and no information about their registration or insurance.
- The mover claims all goods are covered by their insurance.
- When you call the mover, the telephone is answered with a generic “Movers” or “Moving company,” rather than the company’s name.
- Offices and warehouse are in poor condition or nonexistent.
- The mover says they will determine the charges after loading.
- On moving day, a rental truck arrives rather than a company-owned or marked fleet truck.
- The mover claims, “You’ve got more stuff than estimated!” Should this occur, be sure the mover provides a revised estimate that you both sign listing the additional items and/or services as well as a price that you both have agreed to and signed BEFORE they begin packing or loading. They should also provide you a copy of this new estimate.
FMCSA’s regulations protect consumers who are moving interstate, and define the rights and responsibilities of consumers and the household goods carriers they hire.
Household goods carriers (movers) are required to provide you information about your rights and responsibilities as an individual shipper of household goods. Your primary responsibility is to select a reputable household goods carrier, ensure that you understand the terms and conditions of the contract, and understand the remedies that are available to you in case there is a problem. The mover also will provide you with additional written information describing its procedure for handling any questions and complaints, and a telephone number you can call to obtain additional information about your move.
Download the FMCSA’s Rights and Responsibilities Handbook.
What if Something Gets Damaged?
There’s a lot at stake when you move. There’s the money you’ll spend. The memories you’re taking from one place to another. And, your treasured possessions—furniture, family pictures, heirlooms, antiques, children’s toys… When you move, your personal property (including valuables) is loaded onto a moving truck. And while most moves go smoothly, accidents do happen and some items may be lost or damaged during shipment.
Your mover is liable for the value of the goods you ask them to transport. There are, however, different levels of liability. The level you choose will determine the type and amount of reimbursement you will receive if an item is lost or damaged. Be aware of the various types of protection available and the charges for each option.
The two different levels of liability movers are required to provide are explained below and in Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move, a booklet movers are required by Federal regulations to provide to interstate moving customers. Be sure to read this information carefully and follow the instructions provided to declare a value on your shipment.
So, what are your options?
Full Value Protection – Under Full Value Protection, your mover is liable for the replacement value of lost or damaged goods in your entire shipment. This is the more comprehensive plan available for the protection of your belongings. Unless you select the alternative level of liability described below—Released Value—your mover will transport your shipment under the Full Value Protection level of liability. If any article is lost, destroyed or damaged while in your mover’s custody, your mover will, at its discretion, offer to do one (1) of the following for each item:
- Repair the item
- Replace with a similar item
- Make a cash settlement for the cost of the repair or the current market replacement value
Under this option, movers are permitted to limit their liability for loss or damage to articles of extraordinary value, unless you specifically list these articles on the shipping documents. An article of extraordinary value is any item whose value exceeds $100 per pound (such as jewelry, silverware, china, furs, antiques). Ask your mover for a written explanation of this limitation before your move.
The exact cost for Full Value Protection varies by mover and may be subject to various deductible levels of liability that may reduce your cost. Ask your mover for written details of their Full Value Protection plan.
Released Value Protection – The most economical protection available is Released Value, since it is offered at no additional charge. However, the protection is minimal. Under this option, the mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound per article. For example, if your mover lost or damaged a 10-pound stereo component valued at $1,000, you would only receive $6.00 in compensation (60 cents x 10 pounds).
There is no additional charge for Released Value. However, you must sign a specific statement on the bill of lading or contract agreeing to it. But remember, it compensates you according to the weight of the item, not its actual value. And, if you do not select Released Value, your shipment will automatically be transported at the Full Value Protection level of liability and you will be assessed the applicable charge.
Full Value Protection and Released Value are not insurance policies governed by state insurance laws; instead, they are Federal contractual tariff levels of liability authorized under Released Rates Orders of the Surface Transportation Board of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
If you select Released Value, some movers may also offer to sell or obtain for you separate liability insurance. The cost of this insurance is not included in the basic move and must be purchased separately by you. This is not valuation coverage governed by Federal law—it is optional insurance regulated by state law.
If you purchase this coverage, the mover remains liable for the amount up to 60 cents per pound per article; but the rest of the loss is recoverable from the insurance company up to the amount of insurance you purchased. Your mover is required to issue the policy or other written record of the purchase and provide you with a copy at the time of purchase.
You also have the option of purchasing insurance from a third-party insurance company. Before purchasing insurance, check your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if you’re already covered.
Keep In Mind
Some of your actions may limit your mover’s liability. These include:
- Packing perishable, dangerous or hazardous materials in your household goods without your mover’s knowledge.
- Packing your own boxes. You may consider packing your own household goods articles to reduce your costs, but if the articles you pack are damaged, it may be more difficult to establish your claim against the mover for the boxes you pack.
- Choosing Released Value coverage when your household goods are valued at more than 60 cents per pound per article.
- Failing to notify your mover in writing about articles of extraordinary value.
- Signing a delivery receipt for your household goods if it contains any language about releasing or discharging your mover or its agents from liability. By law, you have nine (9) months to file a written claim. Strike out this kind of language or refuse delivery until a proper receipt is provided.
- Failing to report loss and damage promptly. You have nine (9) months following either the date of delivery, or the date on which the shipment should have been delivered, to file a written claim.Interstate movers are required to participate in a dispute resolution or arbitration program to address your loss and damage claims. If your mover does not provide you with information on its program, ask for it—movers are required to provide a concise, easy-to-read summary.
View a comprehensive list of State Mover’s Association’s on the FMCSA website.
Information on this page references the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s Protect Your Move page. Please visit their website for complete information.