Imagine you are moving from Little Rock to Houston. You hire a moving company to help you pack and transport your belongings, memories and family heirlooms to your new home. Things like your great grandmother’s patchwork quilts, your collection of family photos, your kids’ favorite playthings and every bit of furniture you own – including the antique buffet your Aunt Olivia gave you as a wedding gift.
You find it odd that without ever visiting your home or seeing the goods you want moved, the company you called gives a low estimate over the telephone or Internet. Oh well, you are so busy getting all the details finalized on the sale of your old house, the purchase of your new home and wrangling kids that you figure it’s time saved. However, once your goods are on their truck, the movers demand more money before they will deliver or unload them. They hold your memories and your property hostage and force you to pay more — sometimes much more than you thought you had agreed to — if you want your possessions back.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) more than 40 million Americans move each year for personal reasons and career opportunities. It’s a significant event in anyone’s life. Your money, your memories are at stake. It can also be stressful, even under the best of circumstances. Most moving companies are legitimate businesses that do quality work. But in recent years, a growing number of complaints have been filed against interstate movers-and many of those complaints spring from the fraudulent practices of a small percentage of dishonest movers known as rogue movers.
To try and alleviate this problem the FMCSA, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), has initiated a partnership with other Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies, consumer groups, and the moving industry to make sure you have the information you need to protect yourself from fraud.
One of these industry groups is the American Moving and Storage Association. They offer these ten tips for a smooth move:
- Get three written in-home estimates. Be wary of phone or internet estimates. Show the mover everything that will be moved, including items in attics, basements, garages, storage areas, sheds, etc. Typically two of the estimates will be very close together in price, weight, and service. Select one of those two estimates. The other bid will be very high or low. Avoid that carrier.
- Obtain and read the three “pre-move” required documents from your carrier. These documents include: “Your Rights and Responsibilities and Ready to Move” brochure (which is a booklet movers are required by Federal regulations to supply to their customers in the planning stages of interstate moves), and information on the arbitration program that the carrier participates in.
- Avoid large down payments. Be wary of carriers seeking large down payments to hold dates or to reserve service.
- Ask questions. If you do not understand something, ask. The moving business is complex and has its own language. If you aren’t satisfied with the answers to your questions or if the carrier hesitates when you ask for clarification, talk to another carrier.
- Plan an Off-Peak Season Move (when possible). June to September is the high season. If you can avoid moving during those months, you will likely receive better service. If you must move during the high season, move mid-month, mid-week, and avoid the end of the month.
- Be Reachable by Phone. Make sure the carrier is able to reach you by phone during your move. This can save time and storage costs if the driver is ready to deliver and you ready to receive the shipment. Be sure to have the driver’s full name, id and truck number to allow for fast and easy communication.
- Take Valuables with You. Valuables, such as cash, coins, jewelry, photographs, and important papers should be taken with you or sent ahead. Be sure to use a traceable service, such as FedEx and United Parcel Service.
- Segregate Personal Travel Items. The items traveling with you, such as clothes and papers, should be put in one place or in the vehicle you are taking with you. Avoid having those items loaded on the truck and having to find them later.
Here are a few “red flags” to look out for:
- The mover doesn’t offer or agree to an onsite inspection of your household goods and gives an estimate over the telephone or Internet — sight-unseen. If the estimate sounds too-good-to-be-true, it probably is.
- The company’s Web site 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.
- On moving day, a rental truck arrives rather than a company owned or marked fleet truck.
To learn more and to find links to local, federal and state resources that can help you protect yourself and research the history of movers in your area visit www.ArkansasRealtors.com today.
House to House is written by Amy Glover Bryant and distributed weekly by the Arkansas REALTORS® Association.