Moving Companies

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Hiring a moving company can be complicated, and even an honest mover can disappoint you unless you know your rights. Those rights can vary depending on whether you're moving within your state, between states or even overseas. Here's how to protect yourself:

Making the Move

What you should know when hiring a moving company:

The Cost. Generally, you can't be charged more - or in some cases less - than the mover's regulated rates and charges, which you have a right to see. Moves are usually billed by the weight of your possessions (using a formula based on the volume) or by the amount of time the move takes. That's why you'll generally receive a nonbinding estimate of the total cost, with the final price to be determined after the move. A fixed-price "binding estimate" may be available. But expect it to cost more.

A mover is usually allowed to charge you a certain amount above the estimate - often 10 percent, but sometimes more - upon delivery and can bill you for the rest, usually due in 30 days. If you can't make the payment on delivery, your possessions probably won't be released.

Payment Method. Some movers accept credit cards, money orders, cashier's checks, or they may offer credit themselves. Find out first, and avoid paying in cash.

Inventory. Make an accurate inventory of your possessions. It's a good idea to photograph or video at least the valuable items to document their condition. Don't pack jewelry and other small valuables, medication, and important papers.

Insurance. Movers usually provide minimal insurance but offer higher-level "replacement" coverage for an additional charge. Check your homeowner's policy, which may cover lost or damaged items.

Contract. Read the order for service and "bill of lading", which is your actual contract, before signing.

Complaints. If there's  problem after the move (you notice items are damaged or missing), contact the mover immediately. The mover should have given you a copy of its procedures for handling complaints and inquiries. If you think you've been defrauded or that the mover violated the law, contact the South Dakota Division of Consumer Protection. http://www.consumer.sd.gov/ or 605-773-4400.