Moving is stressful enough without having to deal with a rogue mover. Before your hire a mover, do your research and know your rights.
Your rights may vary depending if your move is intrastate or interstate. An intrastate move is within the same state, while an interstate move is between states.
Although intrastate movers are not licensed by the state of Maryland, there are a rules and consumer protection laws governing their business. However, interstate movers must comply with Federal regulations.
The Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Attorney General published The Consumer’s Edge: Hiring a Mover? Protect Yourself!
The publication outlines your rights for a move within the state of Maryland (marylandattorneygeneral.gov). The pamphlet advises that estimates must be written, and must specify if it’s binding or non-binding.
Binding estimates are prohibited to change, while non-binding estimates in Maryland are capped and cannot exceed 25 percent of the original estimate.
Be wary of lowball estimates, or a mover who does not ask a lot of questions about your possessions. Don’t sign a blank or incomplete estimate.
If your move is within Maryland, consult the Maryland Movers Conference. The MMC is a non-profit organization that is part of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, and works with “governmental authorities and consumer groups to promote the highest standards for the moving industry in Maryland.”
The organization established a Registered Mover Program, where movers abide by a code of ethics and other rules. You can view valuable consumer info and the MMC’s list of member movers at their website (mdmovers.org).
If your move is interstate, your mover is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the US Department of Transportation. The FMCSA website “Protect Your Move” (www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protectyour-move) provides an abundance of information to help you choose a reputable mover as well as tips and a checklist to help make your move less hectic.
The FMCSA maintains a registry of legitimate interstate movers from which you can search and view licensing, insurance, as well as complaints.
During the planning stage of your interstate move, Federal regulation requires your mover to provide you with a copy of the booklet “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” and a copy of FMCSA’s brochure “Ready to Move.” These publications (available on the FMCSA website) offer insight to make an informed decision, as well as understand your consumer rights in case something goes awry.
The FMCSA suggests that estimates that sound too good to be true are often a way for scammers to get your business.
Be wary of: estimates given without onsite inspection of your possessions; a demand for cash or a large deposit; blank or incomplete documents; refusal to provide a written estimate; movers who claim to be insured without providing proof; and a mover who generically answers the phone “movers” instead of using the company’s name.
Additional red flags include: no address or insurance info on the company’s website; and use of a rental truck instead of a company branded truck.
Movers must deliver your possessions.
Call the police if a mover threatens to not deliver for any reason. Interstate movers may be in violation of Federal law if they hold your shipment “hostage.”
The FMCSA offers some recourse if you feel victimized by an interstate mover or broker. The Protect Your Move Website has an online tool to make complaints. A complaint may trigger a Federal enforcement investigation against the mover.
Dan Krell is a Realtor® with RE/MAX Success in Potomac, MD. You can access more information at DanKrell.com.