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Relocating Across State Lines? Know Your Rights & Responsibilities
Planning a move can be a big challenge. If you are moving across state lines, it can be even more difficult. Before hiring movers to transport your belongings from one state to another, the Better Business Bureau, along with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), suggest you know your rights and responsibilities. The FMCSA regulations protect consumers on interstate (state-to-state) moves.

When moving, keep the following pointers in mind:

Movers must give you an estimate in writing.

Movers may give binding estimates. Binding estimates is an agreement made in advance with your mover. It guarantees the total cost of the move based upon the quantities and services shown on the estimate. A binding estimate must be made in writing, and a copy must be made available to you before you move.

Non-binding estimates are not always accurate; actual charges may exceed the estimate.

If your mover provides you (or someone representing you) with any partially complete document for your signature, you should verify the document is as complete as possible before signing it. Make sure the document contains all relevant shipping information, except the actual shipment weight, and any other information necessary to determine the final charges for all services performed.

You may request from your mover the availability of guaranteed pickup and delivery dates. If your belongings are not picked up or delivered on the promised date, the mover must reimburse you for delays.

Be sure you understand the mover's responsibility for loss or damage. According to FMCSA, a mover is legally liable for loss or damage that occurs during performance of any transportation of household goods and of all related services identified on your mover's lawful bill of lading. However, shipping hazardous, perishable or dangerous materials, or shipping household goods that exceed the per pound dollar amount, can limit or reduce the mover's normal liability.

You have the right to be present each time your shipment is weighed. If necessary you may request a reweigh of your shipment.

If you agree to move under a non-binding estimate, you should confirm with your mover - in writing - the method of payment at delivery as cash, certified check, cashier's check, money order or credit card.

You should ask the person you speak to whether he or she works for the actual mover or a household goods broker. A household goods broker only arranges for the transportation. A household goods broker must not represent itself as a mover. If a household goods broker provides you an estimate, it may not be binding on the actual mover and you may have to pay the actual charges the mover incurs. A household goods broker is not responsible for loss or damage.

You may request complaint information about various movers from the FMCSA under the Freedom of Information Act. You may be assessed a fee to obtain this information.

You should seek estimates from at least three different movers. It's a good idea not to disclose any information to the different movers about their competitors, as it may affect the accuracy of their estimates.

Should you have a complaint or question about your move, you should first attempt to obtain a satisfactory response from the mover's local agent, the sales representative who handled the arrangements for your move, or the driver assigned to your shipment. If for any reason you are unable to obtain a satisfactory response from one of these persons, you should then contact the mover's principal office. Movers must offer a dispute settlement program as an alternative means of settling loss or damage claims. Ask your mover for details.
Before hiring a moving company, contact the BBB for a reliability report on the company. If your moving company is not responsive to a complaint you have brought to its attention, consider filing a complaint with the BBB.


4/7/2004
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