Things You Should Know About...HOUSEHOLD MOVES
Each year, thousands of Illinoisans move from one home to another. Often professional moving companies are hired to complete these moves. The vast majority of professional moving companies are reputable, honest, and dependable. Occasionally, however, disputes arise or unscrupulous, unlicensed "movers" offer to perform a move for an unbelievably low price that winds up being no bargain at all. The following information is provided to help you be an informed consumer before, during, and after your move.
BEFORE THE MOVE
Choosing the Right Mover
Under Illinois law, anyone offering to perform moving and storage service for hire must be licensed by the state of Illinois. Licensed professional movers must comply with the Illinois Commerce Commission's standards for insurance coverage and handling, loading, moving, and unloading your property; and they must provide those services at reasonable rates and within a reasonable time frame.
Check out a mover's license number, references, and complaint history BEFORE entering into a contract, or bill of lading. Remember, legitimate business people have legitimate business expenses. If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don't be afraid to ask questions, and make sure you get everything in writing.
Getting Written Estimates
Any licensed professional mover must give you a free written estimate of the probable cost for your move. This is an educated guess as to what a move will cost based on the items you tell the mover you want packed and moved. Be sure the estimator sees everything you want to move and understands any special problems that may exist in your current home and your eventual destination (e.g., stairs, elevators, etc.). A written estimate should include all the decisions you have made regarding what you want moved, the size of the vehicle to be used, required staffing, and the mover's liability for loss or damage. Have the mover sign your copy of this estimate.
Your move is not automatically "covered" for potential loss and damage to the FULL value of your property. Basic moving rates only cover a minimal amount of protection, because customers have different needs based on the nature and value of their possessions. Extra coverage will cost you extra money. You can get increased coverage from insurance obtained from a bonafide insurance company or "valuation," which is an increased liability assumed by the mover. Understand your options and the types of loss and damage protection you agree to in your bill of lading with your selected mover. Remember, the time to make the decision about this coverage is before the move starts - not during or after.
DURING THE MOVE
Taking Inventory of Your Possessions
After the moving truck arrives, but before loading begins, you may ask the carrier to make an inventory of your property. Accompany the mover while this list is prepared. If you disagree with anything on the inventory, make a note of it before you sign the form. Make sure the inventory is legible and accurate and that any notations also appear on your copy. You may have to pay extra for the time it takes to complete the inventory (e.g., if you are paying an hourly rate for the move), but it's a price worth paying if you need to make a claim after the move.
Reviewing Your Bill of Lading
The bill of lading is your contract with the mover. It states the mover's responsibilities, such as the services they will perform, when and how they will charge for the move, and what their liability is. Be sure you understand all parts of the bill of lading, including the section detailing the carrier's liability, and get a copy. DO NOT sign the contract until you understand and agree with it. Remember, movers are required to issue you a bill of lading, so don't hire a mover who doesn't want to use one.
Packing and Loading
Depending on your agreement with your carrier, you may be asked to do some of the preparation for the move. If you're doing your own packing, be careful about overloading cartons. Be sure to use appropriate cartons so your goods will arrive safely. Carton tops should be flat and taped securely for easy handling and safe stacking on the truck. To avoid damage, do not pack fragile items and heavy items in the same carton. Mark fragile cartons. DO NOT pack valuables (such as jewelry, money, etc.), medication, or important papers to be taken on the moving truck. The mover is not responsible for these items. Remember, it's first in, last out when loading any truck. Keep items such toiletries, medicines, and other necessities with you. Your mover may have more tips for preparing for your move. Don't be afraid to ask.
Be at the destination site at the time agreed upon for delivery. If you are not there and delivery can't be made because of your absence, your property may be put in storage. You will then be responsible for storage charges.
Check the condition of your property before signing a delivery receipt. This includes checking any boxes which you do not intend to immediately unpack. If there is damage or loss, make a written notation on the inventory or bill of lading. Be specific! Make sure the notations appear on both copies (yours and the carrier's).
Payment is due BEFORE goods are unloaded, unless you have made credit or other arrangements with the mover. If charges are more than 110 percent of the written estimate, the mover is required to give you thirty days to pay the balance.
AFTER THE MOVE
Filing a Claim
If you suffer any loss or damage as a result of a move, you must file a claim IN WRITING within 90 days of the date of delivery. Even if you have an accurate description of the loss or damage on the inventory or bill of lading, you must still file a written claim in the form of either a letter or a claim provided by the mover. Specifically describe the loss or damage and include a copy of the inventory and/or bill of lading.
Movers must acknowledge written claims within thirty days and either pay, settle, or deny the claim within 120 days. Keep the damaged property and packing materials - the mover has a right to inspect any damaged property before settling a claim. Do not have damaged property repaired or replaced without consulting with the mover. Doing so may jeopardize your potential settlement.
If you and the mover have a dispute regarding either the cost of the move or lost or damaged property, you should try to reach a mutually agreeable settlement with the mover. However, if this is impossible, you may pursue your claim with the assistance of certain governmental agencies. The agency best suited to fit your needs depends on the type of move you completed: a move from one point to another within state lines (an intrastate move), or a move from one state to another (an interstate move).
For disputes arising from moves occurring completely within the state of Illinois, the Illinois Commerce Commission has a dispute resolution service available for consumers. The Commission will first attempt to mediate the dispute. If no resolution is reached through mediation, you may submit the dispute for binding arbitration. The arbitration service charges a fee and both you and the mover are bound by the arbitrator's decision.
For disputes concerning state-to-state moves, complaints can be referred to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The Administration uses an informal mediation process to resolve these types of consumer complaints.
Keys to a Successful Move
The best way to avoid problems is to plan ahead and be prepared. No two moving companies are the same, and some are better than others. It is worth your time and effort to do the following:
Choose carefully - only use a mover licensed by the Illinois Commerce Commission. Ask the moving company to provide its license number (the number should be on all advertising and paperwork) and use that number to check the mover's complaint record.
Get and keep a signed written estimate.
Be ready when the mover arrives.
Accompany the mover to make up an inventory.
Understand and agree with the bill of lading before you sign it.
Before your move, ask the moving company to explain its limits of liability and your options for loss and damage protection.
Be at the destination at the time agreed upon for delivery.
Check the condition of your property before you sign a delivery receipt.
Keep copies of all documentation pertaining to your move.
For more information and tips on ensuring a smooth move, check out the Illinois Movers' and Warehousemen's Association Web site. To check the licensing and complaint history of movers operating in Illinois, contact the Illinois Attorney General Consumer Fraud Bureau:
500 South Second Street
Springfield, IL 62701
100 West Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601
1001 East Main
Carbondale, IL 62901
Or you can contact the Illinois Commerce Commission at:
527 E. Capitol Avenue
Springfield, IL 62794-9281
Information for this fact sheet taken from materials provided by the Illinois Movers and Governmental Oversight Information Network (IMGOIN).
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