BBB warns of moving company, broker dishonesty in Washington

Aug 25, 2021, 5:44 PM

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Redfin real estate yard sign is pictured in front of a house for sale in 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images for Redfin)

(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images for Redfin)

Planning a big move in the near future? Make sure the moving company — and the broker — you pick is reputable.

The Better Business Bureau’s Great West and Pacific region, which includes Washington state, is warning of complaints of moving brokers who set people up with unreliable moving companies.

According to a new BBB report, 20% of Americans moved since the COVID-19 pandemic started, for reasons such as needing to find a cheaper place to live, or realizing they could work remotely from another state.

Using a moving broker may seem like the best way to expedite everything during a long and stressful move. But some brokers may not be doing their homework when choosing a company for the client.

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“Like any industry, there are going to be particular brokers that do their due diligence and are transparent, but then there are going to be very few that might book a moving company that might not have the best interests of the consumer,” said Keylen Villagrana, content and PR specialist for the BBB’s Great West and Pacific region.

The BBB received more than 1,400 complaints about moving brokers and moving companies in the first three months of 2021. Some people are finding that the cost they’re charged by the moving company ends up being much higher than the estimate given by the broker. In the worst cases, the moving companies are holding people’s belongings hostage until they cave in and pay the higher fee.

“You have the initial estimate. … Along the way, they start adding these fees, … the new total of what you have to pay is significantly higher than the initial estimate,” Villagrana said. “Some moving companies go as far as to say, ‘You need to pay us this money, otherwise you’re never going to see your belongings.'”

In other cases, the people working at the moving companies are not very well-trained, and end up damaging the items being moved.

Villagrana says it’s important to pick a broker who is transparent and lets you help choose the moving company. Do the research yourself into the companies — make sure they have the proper licensing, no consumer complaints with the BBB, and a good BBB rating. It’s more effort and time than letting the broker do it all, but it will help ensure you have a better outcome.

Additionally, make a detailed list of every item being moved. This will help not just you to stay organized, but also the movers.

“Build out an inventory list of all of the things that you’re moving, that way you keep track of it,” Villagrana said. “And all of your belongings, take a picture before and after.”

The photos will help you to prove if anything does get damaged.

You should make sure that the moving company’s insurance is what’s known as full value protection, which is based off the value of an item, rather than the weight. You do not want to end up with a small amount of money because your items were valuable but did not weigh much.

Finally, document everything in writing — especially the estimate.

“Get everything in writing. Really, really insist at the beginning with estimates,” Villagrana said. “As the old saying goes, don’t just shake on it. Ask for an itemized estimate — how did they calculate these estimates?”

You can use that as evidence if they do try to tack on extra fees and hold your possessions hostage.

“It gives you more leverage to say, ‘This is a binding estimate,'” she stressed.

If you do run into a bad situation, you have a valid case if you take the mover to court. You can also report the company to the Better Business Bureau, which can help hold the company accountable and pressure them to make good on their original price.

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BBB warns of moving company, broker dishonesty in Washington