May is National Moving Month, the start of the busiest time of the year for changing residences, according to the Better Business Bureau.
More than 37 million Americans - or about 13 percent - move to a different home every year, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
And every year, the BBB receives complaints from consumers who have fallen prey to dishonest and sometimes unlicensed moving companies.
The BBB received more than 8,400 complaints nationwide against movers in 2009. Complaints are primarily about damaged or lost goods and final prices in excess of original estimates. In a worst-case scenario, the moving company will hold the customer’s belongings hostage and require thousands of dollars to unload the truck.
“Virtually anyone with a truck and a Web site can claim to be a mover and they can’t all be trusted to adhere to standards for honesty and ethical conduct,” said AMSA President and CEO Linda Bauer Darr. “When it comes to such an important decision, you can save a lot of heartache by doing just a little homework to track down the companies that put customer service and integrity first. For interstate moves, that means an AMSA certified ProMover.”
BBB and AMSA offer the following checklist for finding a trustworthy moving company:
• Research the Company Thoroughly. While state regulations vary, all interstate movers must, at minimum, be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and are assigned a motor carrier number you can verify at www.protectyourmove.gov. Also check the company’s reliability with your BBB. The BBB maintains more than 17,000 reliability reports on movers across North America.
• Get at Least Three In-Home Estimates. No legitimate mover will offer to give you a firm estimate on-line or over the phone. Also keep in mind that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic low-ball offer which can cost you more in the end.
• Know Your Rights. Research your rights as a consumer with both the state you currently reside in and where you are moving to. Also enlist the help of your BBB or local law enforcement if the moving company fails to live up to its promises or decides to hold your belongings hostage.
For more tips and information go to AMSA's consumer Web site, www.moving.org; and the U.S. Department of Transportation's site, www.protectyourmove.gov. To research a mover in your the area, visit www.denver.bbb.org.