Q. My family will be moving this summer. During these stressful times, what advice may BBB provide?
A. Moving is more than relocating your belongings to a new home. Whether moving across town or across the country, it requires time, patience, money, and trust. Movers are one of the top categories of companies searched on the Better Business Bureau website, BBB.org, which has BBB Business Profiles on more than 20,000 moving-related companies.
In 2019, consumers viewed moving companies' BBB Business Profiles more than 1.4 million times, while over 5,700 complaints about movers and moving companies were registered with BBB. Common complaints included damaged or missing items, bills that were higher than estimates, late deliveries and, in some cases, goods held hostage for additional payments.
BBB offers the following tips on preparing for a move, finding a trustworthy moving company, and avoiding scams:
Do your research. Look up Business Profiles for moving companies on BBB.org. The American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) www.moving.org also identify movers that have pledged to uphold high standards of trust and to resolve complaints quickly. Many movers that are BBB Accredited Businesses are also AMSA ProMovers. Note the length of time a company has been in business and read reviews from previous customers.
Verify the mover's claims, credentials, and professional memberships. Scammers and fly-by-night operators won't be able to substantiate a good reputation. Ask for proof of licenses, insurance, etc.
Get it in writing. Get three written estimates from different movers based on visits to your home. Though most professional movers do give quotes over the phone, it's still a good idea to get written documentation of all the services you are receiving. If an estimate seems too good to be true, it likely is. If at any point the services change, whether on your part or the part of the professional, ensure that these changes are documented and understood by both parties.
Talk about the money. Find out how and when payment is required. Many companies require up to a 10% deposit to secure your moving date and require payment before your belongings are delivered. Find out what your payment options are and what method of payment is available. Let your bank know that you are in the process of relocating in the event they notice increased or unusual charges on your credit card.
Prepare for damage. Even though trustworthy movers are trained to handle your belongings and your home with care, it is difficult to move an entire household without at least some damage. Be sure to inquire about inadmissible and non-protected items, such as hazardous materials, jewelry, currency and others. Determine what is covered under your homeowners' insurance policy and what is/is not covered under your replacement valuation protection. If you are arranging for other workers to be in and out of your home, consider documenting the conditions before and after access, in the event any property damage takes place.
Protect your possessions. Make sure that your mover provides full-value protection insurance for any lost or damaged possessions. Note that insurance is by the pound, so expensive items such as a flat-panel television may need additional replacement cost coverage in case they are damaged in transit. Find out what your household insurance will and won't cover during a move.
Take your valuables with you. Cash, coins, jewelry, photographs, and important papers should be taken with you or shipped separately using a shipping service with tracking numbers and insurance.
Some "red flags" to watch for when hiring movers include:
* Movers who demand cash or a large deposit before the move.
* Company websites that have no address and no information about a mover's registration or insurance.
* Movers who claim all items are covered by their insurance.
BBB encourages consumers to be mindful of these moving misfortunes:
* Fly-by-night movers: Movers show up in an unmarked rental truck, rather than a clearly marked company-owned fleet truck, and take off with your possessions. Only when you have arrived at your new residence do you discover your things didn't make the journey with you. Most professional movers wear uniforms, undergo background checks, and will provide an order number for tracking purposes.
* Holding your belongings hostage: The move seems to be going smoothly, until you arrive at your new home and the movers demand more money before releasing your things from storage.
* Conniving Contractors: Movers who try to gain the trust of clients and persuade them that there is no need for a written contract. If something goes wrong during the move, the contractor denies all responsibility, leaving you on the hook for costs and damages. Or the contractor demands more money, claiming the higher price was verbally agreed to before moving.
Read more about moving scams at bbb.org.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.