Consumer Tip Sheet - Understanding the Moving Bill
Moving to a new home can be exciting, overwhelming and stressful - no one said moving was easy. And understanding the moving contract (bill of lading) can be just as difficult.
Bill of Lading
Professional moving companies will provide you with a ‘Bill of Lading’. The bill of lading serves as a legal agreement or contract between a carrier (moving company) and their customers and outlines the terms, conditions and services provided for your move. It's crucial that you understand what you're signing and make sure you're fully informed about the rights and responsibilities of both parties and, in particular, pay attention to the clauses related to movers’ right to limit their liability.
Here are the essential steps of how to read a moving contract to ensure a smooth and stress-free move.
Step 1: Read the Contract from Start to Finish.
The first step in reading a moving contract is to make sure you read it from start to finish. This may seem like a no-brainer, but many people skip this step, only to discover later that they missed important details. Take the time to understand the document thoroughly, and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask the moving company to clarify.
Step 2: Look for Important Details.
When reading a moving contract, you should look for several critical details, including:
- The company: Look for the mover’s contact information including name, office street address (no PO #) and phone number. The absence of a physical address and/or phone number should be a sign that something with the status of the company is not right. You may even be dealing with a rogue operation.
- Your contact information: Check your information, or the contact information of the entitled person (in case you are not present on pickup and delivery days) are noted properly.
- Origin and destination address of the shipment: Check if the addresses are noted properly. If you give the wrong or mistaken address(es) to the moving company, this will impede the relocation process, and could affect your final charges.
- The cost: All the services with their respective rates must be included in the Bill of Lading. Make sure you understand the total cost of the move, including any additional charges for services like packing, unpacking, stairs, or long carries.The terms and the conditions for payment of the total moving related charges, including notice of any minimum charges, should be annotated properly on the bill.
- Method of Payment: Most moving companies offer different methods of payment – cash, money order, certified cheque, credit and debit cards, and even money e-transfer. Some movers ask for a non-refundable deposit on the moving job – beware if the deposit exceeds 10% of the final cost of your move. If you are asked to pay more than that for a down payment, be wary. Rogue operations often want to be paid large sums in advance. We recommend that you do not pay in cash – in case of an issue, you won’t be able to provide evidence of payment if you have paid cash.
- The services provided: Ensure you know exactly what services the moving company will provide, including packing, loading, transportation, and unloading.
- The timeline: If you are moving locally and being delivered on the same day, you will only need the date of the move. However, if you are being picked up one day and delivered at a later date, that information should be located on the bill. For long distance moves, a delivery range of dates is normally provided and that should be noted. Check the date and time of the move, and make sure you understand the company's policy for any delays or cancellations.
- Responsibilities of each party: Know your rights and responsibilities, as well as those of the moving company, including who is responsible for loading and unloading the truck, packing and unpacking your belongings, and handling any damages.
Step 3: Check for Hidden Fees or Clauses.
Be sure to check the contract for any hidden fees or clauses that could significantly increase the cost of your move. Some common examples include additional charges for stairs, long carries, or packing materials. Professional movers offer packing materials & labour, storage and hoisting solutions along with the moving service. Any additional service which the moving company will provide for you must be included in the Bill of Lading. When you contact movers, let them know if there will be any obstacles for the truck to park at your place. If you need clarification on any fees or clauses, ask the moving company to explain them to you in detail.
Step 4: Read the Terms and Conditions Carefully.
Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the contract, including the cancellation and dispute resolution policies. If you're unhappy with any of the terms, ask the moving company to make changes before signing the contract.
Step 5: Review the Insurance Coverage.
Check the insurance coverage provided by the moving company and make sure you understand the coverage and any deductibles. If you have valuable items, consider purchasing additional insurance coverage to protect your belongings during the move.
Step 6: Take Note of the Date, Time and Details of the Move.
Finally, make sure you take note of the date, time and other important details of the move, such as the pickup and delivery addresses, contact information, and any special instructions.
Reading a moving contract is an essential step in the moving process. By taking the time to understand the rights and responsibilities of both parties, you can ensure a smooth and stress-free move. If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to ask the moving company for clarification before signing the contract.
* This tip sheet was adapted from a blog published by King's Transfer Van Lines (Calgary, AB) on How to Read a Moving Contract: A Guide to Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities.