Household Goods (HHG) Enforcement
For many customers, moving is a necessary step in the pursuit of a dream, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety wants to help you protect yourself. While there are many honest, reputable moving companies, some purposely take advantage of individuals during one of the most stressful events in their lives. In such instances, personal items disappear; prices are raised without justification; and delivery deadlines are missed.
Consumers can feel helpless when dishonest moving companies exploit the trust placed in them to move a consumer's belongings. By following these tips, you can help reduce the chances of being victimized during your moving process.
Know your rights, spot the red flags of moving fraud and tips for a successful move. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, publishes four helpful booklets detailing your rights and tips for a successful move:
• Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move
• Spot the Red Flag of Moving Fraud
Important FMCSA FAQs and additional information can be found on the Protect Your Move website.
Start your research as early as possible. Taking time to carefully research your options will help you select a reputable mover. Consumers should check on a business' complaint history and reputation using sites such as the Better Business Bureau. Friends, neighbors, relatives and internet review services may also be able to offer suggestions.
Check their license or registration. For interstate moves, you can verify that a mover is federally licensed by checking the online FMCSA search application, or by calling (202) 385-2423. For Arizona in-state moves, you can verify that a mover is registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission. Of course, just because a mover filled out the appropriate forms does not mean that they'll treat you fairly, so do not use these databases as a substitute for the research mentioned above.
Get on-site inspections and written estimates. Dishonest moving companies will often give you a lowball estimate over the phone or email, and then demand far more after your goods have been loaded onto their truck or taken away. In contrast, most reputable moving companies will do an in-home visit in order to give you a more accurate estimate, and will provide that estimate in writing.
Obtain a written estimate and ask about charges. Moving companies may surprise you with hidden fees, so ask about all charges before selecting a mover, and find out what method they will use to calculate your bill. Be aware that although in-state movers are allowed to charge hourly rates, you cannot control how much time the moving company takes to move your belongings. Make sure your written estimate includes all charges, so you have something to rely on if the mover later tries to change the agreement.
Be careful with brokers. Ask moving companies if they are acting as a mover or a broker. A broker may have a website or salesperson, but will hire a third-party moving company to actually move your goods, and you have no control over who the broker chooses.
Move some items separately. If you have valuable items (i.e. cash, electronics or jewelry), important medical items (i.e. medications or inhalers) or confidential items (i.e. bank statements), move them yourself.
Be present throughout the process. Being present when your goods are loaded allows you to answer questions, give directions and ensure that nothing is left behind.
Select adequate insurance. Interstate movers are required under federal law to offer a minimum level of damage protection, but that minimum level is based on the weight of the item, not its value. The minimum coverage is only $0.60 per pound. If you sign for that option on the bill of lading, you may receive far less for your damaged or lost items than you would expect. For example, if a 50-pound TV you bought for $500 is damaged or lost in the move, that protections would only pay you $30 for that item. If you want full coverage, you'll need to purchase full damage coverage from the mover or purchase insurance from a third party. Additionally, you can check to see if your homeowner's or renter's insurance would cover any loss or damage during moves.
Carefully read documents before signing them. Dishonest movers have been known to alter estimates and add undisclosed charges the day of the move. Review all documents closely before signing and don't sign anything that you don't agree to or understand. Obtain copies of all documents you sign.
Be present throughout the process. This will allow you to direct the movers, answer questions, and check your goods against the inventory list.
Pay the mover what is owed. In interstate moves, fees are typically based on weight or volume, and part of the mover’s fee will often be owed at the time of delivery. The fee for an interstate move should be paid when the mover arrives to unload your items. In any case, if the mover demands more than is owed, call the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s moving hotline at (602) 223-5000 or (602) 223-2212.
Check your goods before signing an inventory list. Moving companies provide an inventory list showing the delivered items. In most cases, by signing that list, you affirm that the items were delivered and were undamaged. Before signing the inventory list, carefully check to ensure you have your items, and inspect them for damage.
Disputes over charges. Contact the Arizona Department of Public Safety at (602) 223-5000 or (602) 223-2212, or by email [email protected]. Your local law enforcement agency can also respond to assist with resolving a situation where your belongings are being held illegally in violation of Arizona's household goods moving law (applies to in-state moves only). You can review the following Arizona Revised Statutes to learn more about the Arizona in-state moving: ARS 44-1612, ARS 44-1613, ARS 44-1614, ARS 44-1615.
Where's my stuff? Dishonest moving companies sometimes create "hostage load" situations, in which the company will not release your goods until you pay extra (usually in cash). In this situation, contact the Arizona Department of Public Safety immediately at (602) 223-5000 or (602) 223-2212; contact your local law enforcement agency; and file a complaint.
Tell us what happened. If you believe you may have been victimized by moving fraud, please contact the Arizona Department of Public Safety at (602) 223-5000 or (602) 223-2212. You may also file a complaint online with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Arizona Attorney General and with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.