By Jim Donovan: May is prime time for making a move. But before you hire a moving company it’s important to do some research. You can’t imagine how many calls I get each year about moving companies holding people’s furniture hostage until they pay an inflated bill. So as to avoid problems, don’t rely on prices quoted on the Internet or phone because they are often subject to change on moving day.

All moving companies are required to be licensed, but regulations vary. The Better Business Bureau of New Jersey has some good moving advice to keep your belongings safe and secure. For instance if you’re moving within NJ (intrastate), movers must be licensed with the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs. If you’re moving out of NJ, they must have a ‘DOT’ and ‘MC’ number, issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Check the ‘Consumer Resources/ Links section at to find the correct government website to verify license information, regulations and your rights and responsibilities.

And no matter where you live or are moving to, here is some additional advice:

Get three estimates: Check references for movers with family, friends or at the BBB ( Check that they are licensed before you contact them, then call for an appointment. Don’t accept a mover that doesn’t come to your home; low prices quoted over the phone or on the Internet can be changed on moving day. Have a written list of items to be moved and show each estimator all items to be moved and not to be moved. Show them all items that you expect the mover to pack and what you will pack; request a separate price to pack large items that you may be unable to pack like large pictures, mirrors, lamps, TV’s or electronic items. Remember, if price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Be aware of what can change the price: A mover is allowed to change the price if ANY circumstances change that was not included in the original price, but he must give you the new price and ask you to sign a ‘change order’ BEFORE they start. Additional charges can be expected if problems arise during your move, especially if known problems are not included in writing such as: (a) You did not request packing of boxes or did not get all your packing completed as shown to the estimator. (b) Your shipment is delivered into a building with flights of stairs or elevator, and not written on the estimate (c) Access to your residence is more than 75 feet from the mover’s truck to your front door or, if a large truck can’t get within a reasonable distance, shuttle charges for a smaller truck may be required. (d) You have added or changed the items to be moved, changed dates or destination. (e) Delays beyond the mover’s control; such as weather, waiting time, rearranging furniture or restacking in a storage space, basement, attic or garage. (f) Storage and redelivery costs.

What coverage is included for damages? Movers are only responsible for damages up to $.60 per pound per article; that means if your large screen TV weighs 100 pounds, it is covered for $60.00. You should consider purchasing insurance or increased valuation through the mover, your homeowner’s policy or other insurer before the move begins. Movers do not assume any responsibility for: (a) Money, jewelry or collections. (b) mechanical or electronic items or loss of data. (c) Items previously broken or repaired. (d) Loss or damage to items packed in cartons by you and loss or damaged items not documented on delivery. Items that are packed and unpacked by the mover are only covered up to $.60 per lb. unless you purchase additional coverage.

Other important items: Do not pack or move items that may cause damage to your shipment, such as matches, flammables, propane, aerosols or liquids like bleach; this could void all insurance. Don’t sign a blank ‘change order’. Be sure to keep a copy of everything you sign until the move is finished. You are about to give everything you own to people that you do not know; it’s wise to do research.

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