Dear ABC News Fixer: Movers Holding My Furniture Hostage

Dear Stephen, We were informed by a customer service representative that there was a misunderstanding.

August 13, 2013, 7:05 pm

4 min read

August 13, 2013 ?? – – Dear ABC News Fixer: I hired a moving company to relocate me from Calais, Maine to Berwick, PA. The Mandatory Estimate was $ 8,355 including a Mandatory Estimate Fee of $ 695. However, after moving, I received a new price of $ 14,184.30.

I don’t have that much so they are holding my furniture and belongings hostage until I pay that bill. I contacted a lawyer and the company will store my things until I pay.

The tractor and trailer that were supposed to make the move also failed and they turned up in two small rental trucks. They weren’t big enough so they had to rent a third truck. I think they are trying to reduce their losses by charging me for extras. What can I do?

– Stephen Baum, Berwick, Pa.

Dear Stephen: We fixed your issue back in March, but it’s worth talking about now in the middle of the summer moving season. There are federal laws in place to protect consumers who take interstate steps. A big no-no is that a mover is holding a hostage’s consumer goods while trying to get a higher price tag. According to federal law, the goods must be released as soon as a consumer pays 110 percent of a non-binding estimate or 100 percent of a binding estimate. (If the mover has legitimate raises, they can bill you later – but they shouldn’t use your belongings as leverage.)

You told us that you hired Neighbors Moving & Storage of Pompano Beach, Florida to make the move. It turns out that Neighbors is a realtor who simply arranged your move. They hired South Moving Transportation of Deerfield Beach, Florida to do the move.

We sent ABC News producer Angela M. Hill to her new Pennsylvania location to review the situation while The ABC News Fixer handled the case. (You were stressed out at the time. In addition to the relocation problem, your wife was hospitalized in Pennsylvania for bronchitis and high blood pressure.) We reached out to Neighbors Moving & Storage and South Moving Transportation. And we got some good news: a South Moving Transportation customer service representative told us there was a misunderstanding about the price. They also called you and said they would deliver your things the next day at the original price.

When the trucks arrived there was a little more confusion. The moving companies said they couldn’t unload at the original price. They held on and they completed the move as promised.

As for others planning a move, the first thing a consumer should do before moving is ProtectYourMove.gov. The site is loaded with information.

Here are some quick tips to keep things running smoothly:

Review the moving company’s or broker’s registration and complaint logs at ProtectYourMove.gov. Under tightened federal regulations, agents are now required to provide consumer protection information, submit a written quote, and disclose the names of the moving companies they use.

Check consumer-facing websites for complaints and reviews.

Get a written estimate from a mover who comes out and actually looks at your belongings.

Never sign a blank or incomplete document! We have heard many stories about consumers who signed an incomplete form only to have the mover write much higher fees later.

Understand the level of insurance offered. If it’s 60 cents a pound, is that enough to cover an expensive item that doesn’t weigh much? If not, consider full replacement insurance and make sure you are aware of any exceptions to coverage.

Remember the no-goods-as-hostage rule for international removals: after you’ve paid 110 percent of a non-binding estimate or 100 percent of a binding estimate, the moving companies must release your belongings.

– The ABC News Fixer

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