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Moving Day Nightmares
A woman hired a moving company that said it charged $80 an hour and that it would take about five hours to complete her move from Bowie to Elkridge. Expecting to pay around $500, she was shocked when the company presented her with a bill for $2,300. It had taken the movers 14 hours to make the move, and the bill included $720 for packing materials.
Standing in front of your new home, after a long and tiring moving day, is no time to get into a dispute with the mover over the amount of the billespecially if the mover demands payment in cash. Yet it happens to consumers frequently.
The best way to avoid these problems is to find a company with a good reputation, and to understand thoroughly how the final cost of your move will be computed. Get recommendations for good moving companies from people you know. Call the Consumer Protection Division to find out if a company has complaints on record. Then, get estimates from two or three different moving companies. Ask to see in advance a copy of the contract you will be asked to sign. Read it to be sure you understand and accept its terms. Don't rely on a quick "guess-timate" given over the phone.
Moves: Paying by the Hour
of informal estimate can lead to an unpleasant surprise for the consumer
at the end of the move. It may take the moving crew much longer to perform
your move than estimated. You may have many more items to move than the
"average" two-bedroom apartment, for example. Also, many companies
routinely add charges for the crew's travel time, for packing materials,
or for stairs or "long carries" between your door and the parking
lot, which might not be mentioned during your telephone call.
What if you do end up with a bill that you wish to dispute? In the past, movers could refuse to unload your belongings unless you paid what they said you owed, even if it was hundreds or thousands of dollars more than the estimate. Now, Maryland law protects consumers from this situation. In an intrastate move, a mover must deliver your goods to you once it has loaded them onto its truck. If you have a dispute over the bill, the mover must still deliver your goods, and then use any legal collection efforts to recover the disputed amount. If a mover threatens to withhold your goods, you should call the police. You can also file a complaint for mediation with the Consumer Protection Division.
You can read the Maryland law requiring a mover to deliver the consumer's goods (PDF document).
Moves: Weight Surprises
A nonbinding estimate is only the mover's best guess of what it will cost for your move. You will be charged according to the mover's tariff for the actual weight of your shipment. To get the most accurate estimate of the weight of your shipment, show the mover all of your belongings, including items in the attic, basement or garage.
If the bill does turn out to be much higher than the estimate, the mover must release your goods to you as long as you pay 110% of the estimate, as long as you had a written, nonbinding estimate. You then have 30 days to pay any remaining charges.
When giving you an estimate, an interstate mover is required to give you a copy of the booklet "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move," prepared by the Federal Highway Administration. You can view it here www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
for Packing Materials
for Lost and Damaged Items
This coverage is so minimal that you should consider purchasing better coverage. The mover may offer you the option to buy a higher level of valuation that would pay for the actual value of your items or replacement cost. Even better, you could obtain insurance from your own insurance carrier or pay your mover to buy true insurance for you from an insurance company. If you have homeowner's insurance, check to see if your policy covers loss or damage during moves.
Revised Feb 2010
Attorney General of Maryland 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free / TDD: (410) 576-6372