Moving is stressful. You hire a moving company and trust them with all of your worldly possessions. What could go wrong? Frankly, plenty if you haven’t done your homework.
Unscrupulous moving companies are waiting to make you their next victim. They may even hold your household goods hostage. “Hold Hostage” is when a moving company gives you a quote for moving services, takes possession of your belongings then refuses to deliver them to you unless you pay them a higher amount than originally agreed upon and as documented on the Agreement for Moving Services. This practice is illegal.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure you are not the next victim.
Consider the following while preparing for your move:
- Thoroughly researching a moving company before hiring. When possible, visit the company’s place of business.
- Verifying that a moving company is authorized to operate in California by checking the company’s status on the Bureau’s License Search at www.bhgs.dca.ca.gov or calling (916) 999-2041.
- Checking the company’s complaint history with the Better Business Bureau.
- Ensuring a moving company provides you with a written estimate only after it has conducted a visual inspection of the items you need moved. Verbal estimates or estimates given over the internet are often changed at the last minute.
- Photographing or videotaping your belongings to create an inventory and document their condition in case a dispute arises concerning charges and/or loss or damage.
- Considering whether you should purchase additional insurance protection and set the value of your belongings for an amount that makes you comfortable.
Before anything is moved, the moving company must provide you with:
- A copy of the Agreement for Moving Services.
- The “Important Information for Persons Moving Household Goods (within California)” booklet, which provides a summary of the rules and regulations the moving company must follow and information about your rights.
- The “Important Notice About Your Move” document, which contains the “not to exceed” amount for your household move. This is the maximum amount you can be charged unless you request additional services.
- A Change Order for Services if you request additional or different services after the Agreement for Moving Services has been signed. If you agree to the additional charges on that change order, those charges may be added to the “not to exceed” amount set forth above. A change order cannot be used simply because a mover underestimated the cost.
If you fall victim to a “Hold Hostage” situation or other unscrupulous conduct by a household mover, be sure to file a complaint with the Bureau of Household Goods and Service, you may do so on the Bureau’s website or by calling (916) 999-2041.