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Paperwork Soup: Know What You're Signing When You Move

You might feel like you're drowning in paperwork during your move, but each piece serves its purpose. Here's the paperwork you will encounter during your move, when you will encounter it, and what you need to do with it.

1. After you meet with the moving company, you will receive a copy of the estimate of your move. Always get your estimate in writing.

2. After you agree to an estimate and choose a mover, you will get an order for service -- this is the contract between you and the moving company, and is essentially authorization that the moving company can move goods for you. You will be asked to sign it. (You might be asked for a deposit -- this short article explains moving deposits and whether and how much you should pay.)

3. On moving day, a mover will do an inventory of your goods and then load them, and present you with the Bill of Lading – this is a document that every shipper in the U.S. must have to move goods. (‘Lading' is a verb meaning to load cargo.)  The Bill of Lading includes all information about your move, including pricing and delivery dates.

Go over it line by line and ask questions before signing. You're releasing your goods to the shipper, so take the time to go through it carefully: Make sure that the dates, services requested, valuation insurance, and dollar amounts are filled in and identical to those contained on your original estimate. And keep the bill of lading with you – don't pack it!

4. Attached to the Bill of Lading will be your original estimate, your order for service, and the mover's inventory. Make sure to check the inventory closely -- it represents the mover's opinion of the condition of your furniture.  If you do not agree with the mover's inventory, you must dispute it before signing.

5. When you reach your destination, use the driver's inventory to check off items as they're unloaded. When the move-in is complete, you will need to acknowledge receipt by signing the inventory sheet and the Bill of Lading.

6. If there are high-value goods, you will fill out a high-value inventory sheet. If you're packing yourself, leave the boxes open so that the moving company can inspect the box to insure they were packed properly. You sign the sheet at origin and when boxes are unloaded to verify they were received in proper order.

Should your final charges exceed the estimated cost of services, the mover can only bill you for those charges 30 days after your delivery date. You then have an additional 30 days in which to pay the bill for the additional charges. If you have a guaranteed price or "Not-To-Exceed" price, that's the maximum amount you are required to pay the mover at time of delivery (before the driver unloads your shipment). 

The amount due for a guaranteed price or "Not-To-Exceed" price should also be on the order for service.  In the case of a "Not-To-Exceed" price, the shipment will be weighed and the final charges based on the actual weight and services performed by the mover or the "Not-To-Exceed" price, whichever is lower. 

If you are paying by credit card, many movers might process the credit card payment before loading. By doing it that way, the mover can verify your "credit worthiness" and avoid costly delays at delivery.

Your Next Move:

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In the Press

A Moving Company's Moving Story
June, 2012

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