Lawyers get many questions from buyers, sellers and real estate brokers during a real estate transaction and afterwards. Recently, I received questions from a homeowner about a moving company that brought up issues most people do not think of when moving.
In my scenario that I have altered to protect the family, a family was selling their home and moving to another home. They had their belongings professionally packed and moved to the garage. The Sellers conducted an internet search for professional movers and calls and bids were obtained before choosing the moving company. However, things started to go wrong on the day of the move and it seemed too late to change course, resulting in even more problems.
Although the homeowners had advised the moving company of the amount of boxes, and the amount of unpacked furniture that needed to be moved, the moving company arrived in a van that was undersized. The fact that the van was not in the name of the moving company was also a red flag. After waiting hours for an adequately-sized van to reappear, the movers were not in a hurry to move the boxes and items to the van. It was later learned that they got paid by the hour. Finally, when everything was in the van, a contract was presented for the first time that differed from the bid substantially in price and terms.
When the homeowners asked why it was different from the bid and asked to speak to the manager, the movers put someone on the phone who said that the movers could move things back into the home but she would pay for that time as well. At this point, the family had to move out of the home to make way for the buyers so in their frustration they signed the contract that they had not previously been sent with the bid.
As you can guess, the contract provided for limitations on what would be paid by the moving company if any items were lost or broken unless the homeowners had previously requested insurance coverage from them. It also provided for limitations in liability for any jewelry or expensive items a written agreement existed with a stipulated amount between the parties. There was even a limited liability provision of a value not exceeding sixty cents per pound per article.
The movers were supposed to store the boxes and heavy items for a few days and then deliver them to the family’s new home. Again, an undersized unmarked truck arrived that was only half full with garbage bags full of broken items that had previously been professionally boxed and items that didn’t belong to the family. Many of the family’s belongings were missing. Days passed where the family had to sleep on the floor before they bought replacement items, while they made claims with their insurance company and with the moving company and its insurance company. Expensive items like jewelry, designer handbags, artwork and even exercise equipment were never delivered. Furniture was damaged when finally delivered. The moving company did not do much at all to respond.
What can real estate brokers and anyone moving take away from this horrible experience? Choose your moving company wisely.
Here is a list of things to do before choosing your moving company:
- You may want to stick to large moving companies, but if not, check reviews on the moving company that you want to use. As it turned out, there were many bad reviews on the company from this story about similar experiences;
- Ask for a copy of any contract that the moving company will be asking you to sign before they come to your home;
- Make a list of everything being moved and take photos or video;
- Ask about limitations on liability and insurance from the moving company before they come out to your home;
- Ask your homeowner’s insurance about any coverage limitations and whether you can purchase additional insurance that would cover items moving out of your home by a moving company;
- Keep any items of value that would not be covered by insurance with you when moving;
- Check with the Public Utilities Commission of the State of Colorado for any information that they can provide to you on a moving company, including its Certificate of Liability Insurance;
- Ask for recommendations from people that have moved recently; and
- Ask an attorney to review the contract and negotiate any additional terms needed.
See also, 12 Steps to Hiring a Mover.
Here is a list of things to do after you have had a problem with a moving company:
- Review the contract signed for any deadlines to make a claim and how to make the claim;
- Contact an attorney for assistance in making the claim and investigate any possible claims in litigation or arbitration for damages, your deductible, and overbilling;
- If you have been overcharged, see if you can dispute the charges through your credit card company;
- Report the moving company to the Public Utilities Commission of the State of Colorado and see how they can help with financial disputes and/or other disputes;
- Make an insurance claim with your homeowner’s insurance for any items that may be covered;
- Ask the Public Utilities Commission of the State of Colorado for any insurance information they have on file regarding the moving company so that you can make a direct claim with the moving company’s insurance company;
- Take pictures and video of all damaged items returned to you by the moving company;
- Make a list of any missing items; and
- Make reviews that are factually accurate to help consumers down the road and advise other brokers in the real estate industry so that these moving companies can be avoided in the future.
Contact me if you have questions about hiring a moving company, need your proposed moving company contract reviewed, or if you have issues with your moving company that requires assistance from an attorney.