As my sale and rental deals approach their closings, my buyers, sellers and tenants invariably ask me to recommend good movers. Alas, the subject of movers is not included in the broker’s course, so all that I know about movers are the names of the moving companies that I see on the trucks on moving days. Therefore, I refer my customers and clients to Consumer Reports, the Better Business Bureau and other ratings, as well as to the experiences of their friends, neighbors and relatives. ProMover should also be consulted for accreditation from the American Moving and Storage Association. Most importantly, for interstate (not in-state) moves, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) provides valuable advice and guidance. Interstate movers must be registered with FMCSA and have a U.S. Department of Transportation number. When booking an interstate move, be aware that some local movers subcontract long-distance moves, but why deal with a middleman when you can choose your interstate mover directly?
After you’ve done your research, get estimates from at least three movers.
Problems with movers are important and worthy of pre-hiring research because every year consumers are bilked out of millions of dollars, their household goods are held for ransom and their possessions are damaged or stolen by dishonest and incompetent moving companies. Some movers do not show up on the agreed-upon date and time to load the truck, nor do they deliver the goods until days later than the due date. More than 35,000,000 Americans move each year, about 3,000,000 of them interstate at an average cost of thousands of dollars with an average loss claim of $8,000. Over 4100 consumers filed moving-fraud complaints with FMCSA in 2017, 41 percent for loss or damage to property, 53 percent for overcharges and 9 percent for hostage load situations. Although FMCSA does not resolve complaints against a moving company, you can file a complaint at www.protectyourmove.gov or by calling 1-888-368-7238, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. EST. Your complaint may start a federal enforcement investigation against the mover. Also, state attorneys general and consumer affairs agencies are responsible for pursuing suspected moving fraud.
Insurance and complaint records are accessed by searching FMCSA’s database of registered movers or by calling FMCSA at 202-366-9803 regarding licensing and 202-385-2423 regarding insurance.
As hard as it is to believe, there are fake moving companies, and unwary consumers hire them! Therefore, consumers should distrust movers who provide quotes via phone or internet without on-site visits to your home. Lowball bids are used to entice your business. On moving day, the dishonest mover may load the truck, holding your belongings hostage until you pay more than the previously agreed-upon price. If the mover tells you that you have more belongings than what was initially estimated, then demand a revised estimate, signed by both parties, before the mover starts to pack or load. Or, perhaps a dishonest mover says that he will determine the charges after the truck is loaded! Be wary of the mover who demands cash payment or a large deposit. Never sign a blank or incomplete document. Don’t hire a mover who does not provide a binding or non-binding estimate. If the interstate mover does not give you the required federal brochures (“Ready to Move” and “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move”) then he is not legit. Be instantly suspicious if the mover has no local address, company name, insurance certificate, license and registration. Another red flag is poor condition of the mover’s offices and warehouse. On moving day, if the mover appears in a rental truck instead of a company-owned truck or marked fleet truck, be instantly suspicious.
Be aware of the differences between a household-goods mover and a broker. A broker arranges to transport your cargo by engaging for-hire carriers to provide the truck transport. Moving brokers book your move and sell it to a moving company. A broker is not a mover and is not responsible for your belongings. In addition to other requirements, brokers for interstate moves must use only movers who are registered with the FMCSA and they must give you a list of the companies they use.
Federal law says that interstate movers must offer two different liability options, called valuation coverage. The first is Full Value Protection and the second is Released Value. The latter coverage is offered at no additional charge but offers minimal protection: 60 cents per pound per article. Therefore, if you have a valuable item that weighs only two pounds, the most that you will receive is $1.20! You must actively choose this option; if not, you will be subject to (and pay for) Full Value Protection. If you select Full Value Protection, then the mover is liable for the replacement value of lost or damaged goods in your entire shipment. The cost varies by mover and whether or not you choose a deductible and, if so, how much. You can also purchase insurance from a third party—but check your homeowner’s insurance policy because you may already be covered. Also note that some movers will not insure items that they have not packed themselves, so it’s a good idea (even if it adds to your cost) to allow the pros to pack—they’ll probably do a better job than you would have done.
By Vivian J. Oleen
Vivian J. Oleen is an associate broker at Sopher Realty.