Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California offers tips for choosing a mover and preparing for a move this National Moving Month
In May, college students take their last final and leave town, and families tend to make their moves once the school year is over. Because of this, May marks the beginning of the busiest season for relocations – it’s National Moving Month!
May is also a time when unscrupulous and unlicensed operators are most likely to take advantage of consumers. Be cautious when hiring a moving company or you could end up with a business that doesn’t deliver. In 2016, BBB received more than 7,500 complaints on movers nationwide. Most of the complaints, 40%, were about service. Although the number of complaints filed in 2016 is slightly higher than 2014’s total, which was around 7,400, it’s a drop from 2015, when around 8,200 complaints were filed nationwide on movers.
Common complaints about moving companies include damaged or missing items, bills that were higher than estimates, late deliveries, and, in some cases, goods being held hostage for additional payments.
The following BBB tips will help make your next move stress-free and successful:
- Do your research when selecting a mover. Look up moving companies on bbb.org. Look for BBB Accredited Businesses - these companies have committed to BBB’s Standards of Trust and will be responsive to complaints. Note the length of time a company has been in business and read reviews from previous customers.
- Check licensing. For interstate moving, ensure that the mover is registered with the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) at fmcsa.dot.gov. For moves within California, the mover needs to be registered with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC); check at cpuc.ca.gov/transportation/. It’s important to double check, because some moving companies falsely advertise they are “licensed and insured.” If a consumer hires an illegal moving company, they have little or no recourse if their belongings are damaged, lost or stolen.
- Verify insurance. It’s also important that the movers are insured. According to the CPUC, “household goods carriers must file evidence of cargo insurance coverage of not less than $20,000 per shipment as well as evidence of liability coverage.” The company has to have insurance to receive a permit from the state or federal government. You can double check by asking for a certificate of insurance. Ask what type of protection the company offers against loss or damage (full replacement cost, depreciated value, or the basic 60¢ per pound valuation carriers are required to provide).
- Other tips. Make sure to get at least three estimates, and get all agreements in writing. Before the movers leave, sign the bill of lading/inventory list and keep a copy. Learn about your rights at protectyourmove.gov and oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/moving. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand, and consider it a red flag if the moving company can’t or won’t answer your questions. You can find more moving tips at bbb.org/move and the CPUC website.
- Speak up if there’s an issue. Whatever your experience is with your mover, you can let BBB know. You can file a complaint with your BBB at bbb.org. You can also leave a positive, neutral or negative Customer Review about the business through its BBB Business Profile. If you encounter a scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker. If a company says it won’t return your items to you without more money than you agreed to pay, contact BBB or local law enforcement for help.
- Prepare your home. The less stuff you have and the better organized your home is, the easier it is to move! A few months before the move, start sorting your possessions and purging what you don’t need. Give yourself plenty of time to pack and make sure everything is properly labeled. Separate your valuables and transport them personally. Make sure to fill out a change-of-address form at your local post office or at usps.com, and notify important parties like your employer, bank, etc.
- Watch out for red flags. These 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 are too good to be true.
- Movers who demand 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.
- Company websites that have no address and no information about a mover’s registration or insurance.
- Movers who claim all items are fully 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.