Moving advice

Whether there's a family, professional or personal reason for a move, it can be challenging. That's why it's a good idea to take the necessary steps to ease stress and protect your property during the moving process.

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Choose a reputable mover

Choosing a reputable moving company is the first — and probably most important —step in the moving process. Seek a mover with reliable evidence of great customer service, truthful advertising and sound business practices.

When shopping around for a mover, it's important to:

  • get estimates from at least three reputable movers and be clear about what you want them to include
  • check references and find out if the mover is certified by the Canadian Association of Movers (CAM)
  • find out how the company will manage your move and protect your belongings
  • read the mover's website content and printed information carefully
  • find out if they have a local presence and can be found in the event of a problem

Here are some potential red flags to watch out for when hiring movers:

  • they do not have a physical address
  • they give you an estimate over the phone, and not in writing
  • they ask for a large deposit upfront
  • they are not listed by the CAM or the Better Business Bureau

Find out if you are working with a mover or a broker

A moving broker is a company that arranges for the transportation of your cargo, using subcontractors to provide the service. If you are working with a broker, make sure you have information about their certification and track record. Determine if the moving broker is responsible for all services from end to end—including those provided by sub-contractors. Many brokers do not assume responsibility for lost or broken items.

Sub-contracting is a major source of consumer complaints. It can result in a confusing trail of responsibility if a dispute arises.

Get a quote in writing from the mover

Before you commit, get the costs, as well as terms and conditions, of your move in writing.

You should also:

  • make sure that the mover sees all items that must be moved while preparing the quote
  • create a household inventory list for you and the mover before the movers quote an in-home estimate. This will provide the movers with more information on everything they'll be moving and highlight items that require special handling
  • give the mover all of the information they need for your quote
  • ask about additional costs you may incur if you need to add items on the day of the move
  • get the quote on a company letterhead and signed by a company representative
  • check that the quote includes the number of boxes to be moved, the size and value of items, the cost, terms of payment, and the time of services
  • make sure the quote includes commitments about the delivery date and special care items
  • ask if you must pay a deposit upfront and if it is refundable or held as a penalty to cover the costs for cancellation
  • verify the form of payment the mover will accept and if any fees or deposits are payable upfront—a mover can legally ask for payment in advance of delivery. In most situations, this payment will not exceed the estimate by more than 10%
  • look over the quote carefully and make sure you understand all of the details, including the final cost as well as the terms and conditions

Tip: for more information on understanding moving terms, check out this Help Sheet put together by the Canadian Association of Movers.

Get insurance for your move

A combination of your household insurance and the mover's insurance may cover you if there is damage to, or loss of, your belongings. Usually, your household insurance will cover you for catastrophic loss.

Under transportation law, the mover is not responsible for carrying goods of extraordinary value, such as works of art, unless that value has been declared. Some items have what is called "inherent vice" which means that they are intended to be assembled and left in one place for their useful life, such as fiberboard furniture. Movers may ask for a waiver of liability when they see this type of fragile item in your inventory.

Make sure to:

  • contact your insurance provider to clarify your overall coverage for your goods while in transit
  • if you purchase the mover's replacement value protection, it will cover your goods for loss or damage
  • if you don't buy replacement value protection, confirm how much the moving company is liable for if there is loss of and/or damage to your goods—generally the mover's liability is $0.60 per pound ($1.32 per kg) per item
  • make sure that the mover and any subcontractors have workers' compensation coverage
  • ask about liability if you pack the items yourself—generally, the mover is not liable for loss or damage to goods that are packed by the owner.
  • pack special care items (i.e., glass, marble, and other) at "owner's risk"—the mover is not likely to have any liability for damage to items that are not packed professionally
  • verify how to make a claim and any time limits for making it

Take steps for a smooth moving day

Good preparation on your part, and an awareness of your rights, could turn a good move into a great move.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • have everything ready-to-go when the movers arrive, otherwise you may be charged for keeping them waiting to perform required services
  • secure your valuables such as your cellphone, wallet and jewelry—carry them with you personally when it's time to go
  • ask the mover to use drop cloths or runners at both locations to protect floors and rugs
  • identify fragile items that the mover is expected to pack and supervise the packing of these items
  • be ready in both your current and destination locations—you may need to book the elevator in the building, notify your landlord/building manager of the arrival time of your movers, arrange for street parking and maybe even snow removal
  • for long distance moves, provincial transportation regulations require an inventory before transporting belongings—best practice guidelines stipulate that all items must be tagged and listed by the mover and a copy of the inventory supplied to you for your records
  • check off each item and note any changes to the inventory, or damage, when contents are being unloaded at your new destination
  • keep your inventory list safe and secure

Remember, if belongings are damaged or lost, claims often must be made within 30 days for local moves and within 60 days for long distance moves.

Putting your belongings in storage

Remember:

  • if your belongings must be left in the moving van overnight, confirm that it will be parked in a secure area or unloaded into a secure facility
  • if your goods are in a facility, check if it is heated during the winter months
  • items that might be affected by heat or cold (e.g., candles, medication, cleaning products) should not travel in the moving truck or be stored—move them yourself
  • confirm what measures are in place to protect your belongings from theft, fire or water damage while in storage
  • find out what insurance coverage you have for the duration of the storage time

Wrap up your move

Once the mover has unloaded your belongings, walk through your new space and check all hallways and pathways into your premises to ensure that there is no damage to the property. You should also check the moving vehicle to confirm that the mover hasn't forgotten to unload any of your items. Make sure that both you and the mover have gone through the inventory and confirm that the move is complete.

If there are lost items or unresolved issues with the mover, send a letter or email and ask for a resolution. Any damage or other insurance claim should be filed right away, as there are often very strict timelines associated with making a claim. Take pictures of anything that you think is damaged or broken.

Don't forget to give your mover feedback. Moving companies can only improve or sustain their high performance if they know that their work is recognized and appreciated.

Filing a complaint

If you have a dispute with a moving company, make sure to keep copies of all the documents that support your complaint.

Inform the business of your complaint by letter, email, or a phone call explaining the issue. It is recommended writing to the business before you file a complaint with your provincial/territorial consumer affairs office.

If you advise the business of your complaint by phone, make sure to note the date and details of the conversation. Keep a copy for your records.

If you cannot resolve the issue with the company, file a complaint with your provincial/territorial consumer affairs office.

Moving checklist

This moving checklist can help you at every stage of your move.

  • make sure you have adequate insurance protection for your goods—including for storage if you need it
  • confirm that your mover is insured and ask for a copy of the mover's Certificate of Insurance—this insurance does not apply to your goods unless you buy replacement value protection from the mover
  • find out about your mover's replacement value options—this coverage means that the moving company agrees to be legally liable, up to a certain amount that represents the estimated value of the property being moved
  • check what your moving company cannot transport or store for you (e.g., live plants, certain food products, flammable items)
  • make a room-by-room inventory of what is to be moved to make sure that nothing gets left behind or forgotten
  • when contents are being unloaded at your new destination, check off each item, and note missing items, or damage, prior to signing for your delivery
  • prepare for moving day so things like elevators, stairways and parking spots have been reserved or cleared.
  • make sure there will be enough convenient parking space at both locations for moving the trucks
  • inspect your premises to ensure nothing gets left behind by doing a walk-through of the residence you are leaving and the pathway to the moving vehicle
  • repeat the inspection process at your new home and include an inspection of the moving vehicle

This checklist for moving complements legal protections, established in law, that are already in place.