Jun 18 | Posted by Barry Cohen

Whether it’s your first move or your 20th, focusing on contracts and lists can be tough when you’re dealing with all the other details of a move but it’s worth the time and effort.  It can seem overwhelming to decipher the terminology in moving contracts, but not having a clear understanding of all the terms, conditions and provisions in these documents can lead to additional and unexpected costs and headaches.  Asking questions until you are completely satisfied is the key to achieving a smooth and trouble-free residential move.

Start by contacting 2 or 3 moving companies focusing on any that have been recommended by family or friends and request a written estimate.  Reputable companies will want to do a visual inspection of the contents of your home to provide a more accurate price, but most will give you a rough estimate over the phone or via email.  There are basically two types of estimates:

  • Non-Binding Estimates – Which as the name suggests can differ greatly from the actual price you will be charged, because the actual moving costs will be determined by the precise weight of your contents.  Weight tickets will be issued when your shipment is moved under a non-binding estimate.
  • Binding-Estimates – This type of estimate guarantees the final cost of your move, but it is important to note that if the actual weight of your shipment exceeds the initial estimate or if you add any additional services on moving day you will need to negotiate a new price.  Reputable movers will provide you with an on-site written binding agreement and inform you of any potential extra costs along with useful tips on how to prepare for your move.

The contract between you and your chosen mover is referred to as a bill of lading, and it is your responsibility to read it and understand it before signing and accepting it.  This document must include the mover’s name, address and license number, the origin and destination of the shipment, pick up and delivery time, provided services and rates, payment method and due date including deposit amounts if applicable, insurance coverage and dispute settlement.  Pay special attention to the clauses related to movers’ liability, and ask questions if you are not certain.  Keep your copy in an easily accessible spot where you will be able to refer to it if necessary on moving day, as it is the most important moving-related document you will receive.  

You will need to prepare an inventory list for all items that are to be shipped by your movers that states their condition prior to the move.  Most moving companies will not be liable for any items you have packed yourself, or items of great value that are not declared on the inventory list, and these and other certain circumstances can allow your movers to limit their liability. This inventory list, while tedious to prepare, will work in your favour if an item has been lost or damaged while in the mover’s custody.  It is your responsibility to check your items against the inventory list and to notify your mover’s immediately and ensure there is a proper notation on their copy of the inventory list before you sign off on it.

Moving is an exciting time, but also a stressful one, making sure you are informed and prepared can make your transition from one household to another less stressful and more exciting.