Movers and Breakers

Moving day can be an exciting time for many!  However, the thought of moving always causes angst, frustration, and physical/emotional exhaustion.  To avoid most of these emotional and physical moving issues, Sellers and Buyers should research said issues and then eventually hire vetted and reputable moving companies.

Moving companies come in all sizes (i.e., National to local) and shapes (i.e., service and costs).  National and regional moving companies will traditionally provide a written estimate for moving services while some local companies typically do not provide a written estimates but quote you an hourly fee based on the number of movers being used.   Note that in all cases Florida law requires a written estimate to be provided and signed by the shipper and mover and must contain key information relevant to the move (e.g., contact information for both parties, itemized breakdown and description of items being moved, acceptable forms of payments, etc.).

Interestingly enough, most Buyers and Sellers give a lot of credence to the “written estimate,” but we have heard and learned from clients that the written estimate does not really protect a Seller or Buyer.  For example, most written estimates will provide the number of items to be moved, number of cartons to be supplied, number of movers, hourly rate, anticipated hours, and valuation coverage (i.e., insurance).  The written estimate usually is not thoroughly examined by the Buyer and Seller.  They do not realize that more often than not if the number of items or number of hours on the written estimate comes in less than anticipated there is generally no adjustment in price.  However, if the moving company exceeds the number of items or hours on the job further payment will be due.  Furthermore, the unsuspecting Buyer and/or Seller do not realize that the moving company generally glosses over the valuation coverage section.  This is an important point.  Florida law only requires a licensed moving company to provide basic valuation coverage in the event of property damage during the move.  Basic valuation coverage is limited to $.60/pound (that is correct, 60 cents per pound!).  The interesting thing is if an item is damaged the moving company will place a superficial price on the item and offer a random amount for settlement.  In other words, they really do not weigh each item and offer an accurate price for settlement.  So assume you just bought a $10,000 table that weighs 200 pounds and the movers damage it beyond repair (assuming basic valuation coverage). The total amount you will receive is a whopping $120.  Doesn’t seem fair, right?!  To the extent a moving company is deceptive in their practices (i.e., not properly licensed, does not provide written estimates, false statements, misrepresents the price, size, nature, extent, qualities or characteristics of the move, etc.) Florida law does have built in remedies (Administrative, Civil, and Criminal) to protect a Buyer/Seller.  And if you are moving out-of-state or from another state, other remedies may be available but not discussed herein.

We encourage both Buyers and Sellers to perform some level of due diligence before hiring a moving company.  In an effort to reduce future headaches you should consider the following before signing off on the written estimate (this is not an exhaustive list but some things to consider):

  1. Ask your Realtor who they would consider;
  2. Analyze moving company reviews in the area;
  3. Request a copy of the moving company’s insurance (Liability, Motor Vehicle, etc.);
  4. Request a written estimate:

    a. Confirm that if the number of hours or items moved is less on the estimate if the estimated price will be reduced (this should be noted under the special instructions/comments section of the Estimate);

    b. Confirm if the number of hours or items is more than the estimate how it will affect pricing;

    c. Understand the valuation coverage section. You can take out additional insurance coverage but you need to understand what it is covering. Usually the cost will vary based on the deductible amount but it will provide better coverage than what is required by Florida Statute;

    d. Make sure the pickup and delivery addresses are correct.

    e. In the event of an unexpected delay in closing confirm what the cost would be to store your possessions;

    f. Confirm the delivery date;

    g. Make sure you receive a fully executed copy of the estimate;

  5. Discuss how the moving company will repair damage to real property that occurred during the move;
  6. Confirm that the actual movers on site have no criminal records; and
  7. Discuss whether there is an expected “tip” on top of the amount in the Estimate.

As always, if you have any questions about a moving company’s written estimate or its statutory requirements we encourage you to contact your local real estate attorney.

Sincerely,
Berlin Patten Ebling, PLLC
Article Authored by Jamie Ebling Esq.,  jebling@berlinpatten.com

This communication is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship, and to the extent anything contained herein could be construed as legal advice or guidance, you are strongly encouraged to consult with your own attorney before relying upon any information contained herein.

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

www.berlinpatten.com

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