Planning a move? Make sure it goes smoothly
by Attorney General Roy Cooper
Every year, millions of Americans pack up and change addresses, and most of those moves take place between May and September. If you’re planning a move, learn what you can do to make it as smooth as possible.
There are many reputable moving companies and a good mover can be a great help. But there are some who will try to take more than just your furniture for a ride. You’ve probably heard horror stories about moves gone wrong. The truck arrives at your new home, but the movers demand that you pay $2,000 more than you expected. Once the movers start carrying in furniture, you notice a new scratch on your kitchen table. Perhaps you start unpacking boxes only to find chipped glasses and broken dishes. Maybe some of your belongings never arrive at all.
To protect yourself from common moving woes, research your choice of mover, communicate upfront with the company about the move, and know what your rights are if something goes wrong.
There are two basic types of moves and each is regulated differently. An interstate move is a move from one state to another and is regulated primarily by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In an interstate move, your mover must provide you with a written estimate of total charges, or a guaranteed total price. If you use a broker, and they give you an estimate, the estimate must be in writing.
An intrastate move takes place entirely within the borders of a single state, like a move from Asheville to Wilmington. The North Carolina Utilities Commission regulates movers within our state and sets the maximum rate levels that movers are allowed to charge. Within those approved levels, intrastate movers can offer lower rates, so shopping around may save you money. The costs of both interstate and intrastate moves are based on mileage, weight, the number of boxes the mover packs for you and any special services you need.
Whether you're moving across town, across North Carolina or across the country, keep the following tips in mind:
- Check out the moving company. Ask friends for recommendations. While most moving companies operate legitimately, some do not. If you have any doubt about a company's credentials, check them out before you do business.
For interstate moves
, ask for the mover’s Motor Carrier number and then check with the U.S. Department of Transportation's website at www.protectyourmove.gov
to find out whether they are registered and insured, learn if they have a good or bad complaint record, and see more tips for interstate moves.
For intrastate moves
, ask the moving company for its North Carolina Utilities Commission Certificate number and then call the Utilities Commission at (919) 733-7766 to see if they have complaints on file against the company. For more information, check out Moving 101- A Counsumer’s Guide available on the Commission’s website at www.ncuc.net
- Get a written estimate of costs. Make sure you understand the charges listed and what services are included. Keep in mind that an estimate is not a guarantee and that the actual move may wind up costing you more.
- Take inventory. Ask the movers to prepare a written inventory of your shipment, or write down your own inventory. It’s a good idea to take pictures or video of antique or other valuable property prior to the move so you will be better able to prove any damage that occurs during the move.
- Ask for a bill of lading. This is a written contract that sets forth the terms and conditions of your move. Your mover is required to provide a bill of lading in all intrastate and interstate moves. Be sure to read it carefully and keep a copy until your move is finished and any disputes with your mover have been resolved.
- Set dates. Ask the mover to specify pick up and delivery dates in writing.
- Know your liability. Make sure you understand your moving company's policy for items that get lost or damaged in the course of your move.
- Get satisfaction. If there are problems with your move, let the company know about them as soon as possible and, if needed, file a written complaint with the company no later than nine months after the delivery. You can also file a complaint with the proper regulating agency.
For complaints about interstate moves,
you can contact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by calling 1-888-368-7238
or visiting http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov.
Keep in mind that the FMCSA cannot resolve claims, so if you are not satisfied with the settlement offered by the mover, your recourse is to go to court or arbitrate.
o For intrastate moves, you can contact the Transportation Rates Division of the NC Utilities Commission’s Public Staff. Call 919-733-7766 or write to 4326 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4326.
You can also file complaints about either type of move with my office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov