The Utilities and Transportation Commission and Better Business Bureau have some words of caution for consumers who need to hire a moving company for an in-state move: check with the state before it’s too late.
There are moving companies falsely advertising that they are “licensed and insured.” However, only those moving companies with a permit from UTC are allowed to legally provide residential moving services in Washington state. People who hire illegal companies typically have little or no recourse if their belongings are damaged, lost or stolen.
“Before you entrust all of your worldly possessions to a moving company, make sure they are properly permitted,” says Steve King, the commission’s executive director. “In our experience, we have seen many illegal movers with extensive criminal records. Some have even held customer’s goods ransom, or disappeared with them altogether.”
Numerous state laws and rules protect customers of in-state moving companies. The UTC enforces these laws and can assist people who have a complaint against a regulated moving company.
State laws also require companies to conduct background checks and drug testing of potential employees. Because a mover interacts so closely with customers in their homes, these measures are designed to protect the customer’s safety, as well as, their possessions.
“We hear too many horror stories from people who were tricked by shady moving companies or have had their personal belongings held hostage for more money,” says Tyler Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “Moving can be exciting, but it is a stressful step. With the right preparation and research, there’s no reason moving shouldn’t be hassle-free.”
Between April 1, 2014, and April 1, 2015, consumers turned to the BBB 30,149 times to look up BBB Business Reviews on Washington moving companies. In the same period, consumers filed 120 complaints against Washington moving companies.
Before a customer even packs a box, the BBB and UTC offer the following tips for hiring a moving company:
- Contact the commission to confirm the company has a valid permit and inquire about any consumer complaints. Call 1-888-333-9882 or visit www.utc.wa.gov/movingtips.
- Check with BBB to find out the company’s rating and determine if there are any complaints filed against them. Start at bbb.org/search.
- Be sure to receive a free written estimate – moving companies are required to provide one.
- Get estimates from at least three different companies and do not make a decision based on price alone.
- Finally, do not sign any incomplete documents. Make sure all forms are as complete as possible.
The UTC is the state’s watchdog agency in charge of enforcing consumer protection and safety regulations for more than 200 permitted residential moving companies operating within Washington. Movers must charge proper rates, carry insurance and safely maintain their vehicles. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Commission not the UTC regulates interstate moving companies.