5 Tips to Avoid Fees, Traps and Moving Scams
A recent Consumer Reports story found that last year, Massachusetts officials sued one moving company and New Jersey officials sued two for providing low-ball estimates and then grossly inflating fees after loading the trucks. One of the companies had threatened to auction the possessions of customers who didn’t pay.
Hiring a moving company can be complicated, and even an honest mover can disappoint a consumer unless they know their rights. And those rights can vary depending on whether you’re moving between states or within one. Consumers need to protect themselves, and here’s how:
Get recommendations. Try not to rely on newspaper, phone-book, or online ads for the names of movers. Instead, get recommendations from friends, family, or reliable real-estate agents. Plan to obtain estimates from at least three companies. Avoid movers that can’t provide an address or licensing information. Ask if they have marked trucks, and use a mover that does. Never hire a company that relies solely on a phone or online estimate, or one that requires a large deposit.
Verify licensing. In August New Jersey officials announced a sting operation that resulted in fines against 25 unlicensed moving companies with listings on Craigslist, Angie’s List, and other websites. Several movers had outstanding warrants; two were wanted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Interstate movers are licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which offers information on how to screen them, at www.protectyourmove.gov. The site also has a list of state regulators who oversee in-state movers. (Click on “State/Local Resources.”)
Check for complaints. Along with licensing information, the federal website and some state sites list complaints against movers. Also check the BBB (bbb.org), and search with the company’s name to find reviews and complaints on online forums and complaint websites.
Know your rights. The federal government and some states require movers to provide booklets explaining your rights. Although the federal “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” doesn’t apply to in-state movers, it’s a must-read for all. Find the title under “Are You Moving?” at www.protectyourmove.gov. Also check the consumer information on the American Moving & Storage Association’s website (moving.org).
Making Complaints. If there’s a problem after the move—you notice items are damaged or missing—contact the mover immediately. The mover should have given you a copy of its procedures for handling complaints and inquiries. If you think you’ve been defrauded or that the mover violated the law, contact your state attorney general or consumer protection agency. If you think the mover is illegally holding your possessions and trying to rip you off, contact the police. If ultimately you need to sue in small-claims court, send your mover a demand letter with your complaint and what you’re seeking.
Source: Consumer Reports