It’s officially moving season as May kicks off the start of National Moving Month, the busiest time of year for Americans to make residential moves. Unfortunately, not all moves go as planned and even in the best of circumstances, moving can be a stressful process.
In 2014, on a national basis, the Better Business Bureau received over 1.5 million moving-related inquiries and more than 6,500 complaints against movers. Typical complaints allege damaged or missing items, significant price increases over originally-quoted estimates, late deliveries, and in some cases, goods being held hostage for additional payment.
“Anyone can rent a truck and claim to be a legitimate mover,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “If you are planning a move, start your search for a mover with BBB by checking out a company’s Business Review and finding a BBB accredited mover, along with confirming any required licensing.”
Your Better Business Bureau provides the following checklist for consumers looking to make a move:
- Verify licensing. All interstate movers must be licensed by the federal government and are assigned a motor carrier number you can verify with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. If you are moving within the state of Pennsylvania, a company must be licensed by the Public Utility Commission and a list of PUC certified carriers can be found on the Public Utility Commission’s website.
- Get at least three written in-home estimates. No legitimate mover will give you a firm price online or over the phone. Keep in mind that the lowest estimate may be an unrealistic low-ball offer that can cost you more in the end.
- Confirm insurance coverage. Understand what the insurance covers, whether items will be repaired, replaced or if you will be given a cash settlement that you can use to repair or replace an item on your own. Consider purchasing full value protection, which may add to the cost upfront, but can eliminate headaches after your move.
- Get a written contract. Carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract, as well as the limits of liability and any disclaimers. Make sure pick-up and delivery dates or deliver ‘windows’ are spelled out. Understand how the rate is being calculated – for example, time spent on the move versus volume of items being moved.
Some “red flags” to watch for when hiring movers include:
- Movers who don’t make an on-site inspection of your household goods and give an estimate over the phone or by email. Such estimates often sound—and are—too good to be true.
- Movers who demand payment in cash or a large deposit before the move.
- Movers who don’t provide you with a copy of “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” a booklet that movers are required to supply to customers planning interstate moves, or an Information for Shippers form prior to signing any agreements for moves within the state of Pennsylvania.
- Company websites that have no address and no information about a mover’s registration or insurance.
- Movers who claim all items are covered by their insurance.
- Telephone calls answered with a generic “movers” or “moving company” rather than a company name.
- Offices or warehouses that are in poor condition or don’t exist.
- On moving day, a rental truck arrives rather than a company-owned or marked fleet truck.
The best protection against moving scams is to be an informed consumer, to ask questions and get everything in writing. For more consumer news you can trust and to check out a mover near you, visit bbb.org