I'm Here... But Where's My Stuff?!

By Michael V. Quatrini, Esq.

Relocating to a new area can be exciting - new job, new home, new friends! But while the notion of a fresh start may be inspiring, the idea of actually moving your stuff excites no one. Whether you are moving your belongings to a new home or to a new school, trying to find a cost-effective, reputable moving company can be a chore.

To help you avoid a future headache or horror story, we have a few recommendations before you sign on the dotted line with any moving company:

Research your mover - Ask your real estate agent, family or friends for their recommendations. Ask all movers for references. Stay away from "too good to be true" deals. Visit www.protectyourmove.gov, a website maintained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This website allows you to research the complaint and safety record of all interstate moving companies nationwide. It is also loaded with useful resources and tips, including a glossary of moving terms, a helpful (and printable) checklist to guide you before, during and after the move, and links to individual state resources.

Protect your belongings - Avoid a common misstep. Interstate movers must offer the option to purchase Full Value Protection or Released Value Protection coverage. With Full Value Protection, a damaged item will be repaired, replaced if severely damaged or lost, or paid for with a cash settlement. With Released Value Protection, you would recover no more than 60 cents per pound per item. A lost Chinese vase weighing two pounds would net $1.20 under Released Value, even if its actual market value was $2,000.

Check your own insurance coverage - Talk to your own insurance agent about your options, including homeowner's insurance or third party coverage.

Make a detailed list and take pictures - Before the movers arrive, take a picture of each item. While this may be tedious, it will protect you down the road should some of your stuff not arrive.

Be there for delivery - When your belongings are delivered, make sure you are there to supervise. List any lost or damaged items. Document damages with photographs.

Read the fine print - Consider contacting an attorney before signing a moving contract. Your attorney can review the contract and make sure that you are adequately protected. Remember, once you have signed the contract, you are bound by its terms.