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Understand the Different Types of Moving Paperwork, Contracts and Documents

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Nobody likes doing paperwork, but unfortunately, there are going to be situations where paperwork is unavoidable. If you hire a moving company to perform your relocation, it's important to understand the different types of moving documents before signing them. Educate yourself on the different kinds of agreements and what they legally bind the moving company to doing.

We've compiled a list of some important terms and important forms you are going to come across during your move to help make the process move along smoothly.

The first important document you should receive is your moving estimate

In the beginning of your move process, you're going to want to screen a number of moving companies to see which one will meet all or most of your requirements. When interviewing the moving companies, ask for an in-home estimate for the most accurate pricing.

After the company comes to your home for the estimate, they'll provide a written quote on how much the move should cost. This is the moving estimate and should include:

  • Transportation
  • Labor
  • Packing services
  • Storage charges
  • Insurance
  • Any other additional charges which you would discuss and agree upon with the moving company.

Non-binding estimates are subject to change and depend on the actual weight of the move. If you sign off on this type of estimate, you agree to pay the bill if your shipment ends up weighing more than the original estimate.

Binding estimates are fixed based on the shipment's estimated weight. It cannot be adjusted, even if the items end up weighing more or less than the original quote. Once you sign this estimate, you pay the exact amount the company quoted you.

Binding not-to-exceed estimates are the most customer-friendly option. The moving company will estimate the weight of the customer's belongings, but if the actual weight is more than the estimate, the customer won't be charged for any additional costs. However, if the weight is less than the estimate, the customer will only pay for the actual cost of shipping. 

Once you've chosen a company, you will sign the bill of lading

The bill of lading is a detailed list of everything you are shipping in the form of a receipt. Every move requires a bill of lading. This is a very important document that you should keep with you or in a safe spot at all times, so it doesn't get lost amongst your move.

The bill of lading contains the:

  • Moving rate you agreed on
  • Payment method
  • Origin and destination of the move
  • Insurance information
  • Moving company's license and insurance information

The order of service should be attached to the bill of lading

Both you and the moving company sign this document agreeing to enclosed details, but the order of service is not a legally binding contract. Keep this document attached to the bill of lading, so you have the information readily available.

This document should include:

  • The estimated cost of the move
  • Scheduled pick-up and delivery dates
  • Any special services required, like packing or storage

The driver issues a household goods descriptive inventory form on moving day

The inventory form describes all the items you are moving that were loaded onto the moving truck. In addition to the items, the driver should take note of each item's condition. Any items already in boxes will be marked "packed by owner" or PBO, meaning that the condition of the contents is unknown.

Once the itemized list is completed and issued to you, read over the form thoroughly and confirm all items are properly accounted for. Both you and the driver will sign off on the household goods descriptive inventory sheet before transit (to acknowledge that items were loaded) and after delivery (to acknowledge nothing was broken or damaged).

For interstate moves, read "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move" 

This pamphlet should be accompanied by the official "Ready to Move" brochure from the FMCSA. Both documents will have a slew of information about choosing a reputable moving company, as well as instructions on how to handle complaints and claims. 

TIP: If you are not provided with these forms, it may be a sign you're dealing with a rogue mover.

  • While the pamphlet you receive on "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move" discusses the different levels of liability, your mover may still provide you with additional explanations of liability options
  • Local movers will be subject to state transportation laws and not federal regulations
  • If you move long distance, you should receive a statement of services which will include the final cost of your shipment and should reflect tariff charges based on the actual weight and service

As you've gathered, there are a number of different forms that you'll come across when you move. Different moves will call for different forms, so take your move slow and read over each document carefully and understand each term being used. Once you've familiarized yourself with the documentation and vocabulary, you'll be in good standing.

Nicole Schurott  Posted by Nicole Schurott on October 23, 2018

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