How to Dispute a Moving Company’s Bill
It happens to hundreds each year.
After a stressful move across the country and a day or two of unpacking, a person gets the bill from their moving company, and it’s $1,000 more than expected.
It happens. And if it happened to you, what do you do?
There are a lot of options for those who want to dispute a moving company’s bill. Some are better than others, depending on the circumstances. In this article, we’ll lay them out for you.
Ways to Dispute a Moving Company’s Bill
There are four basic ways to dispute a moving company’s bill.
- Through the moving company – The first step is to talk to the moving company. Try to speak with a manager or high-up decision maker.
- In arbitration – Arbitration is a form of out-of-court dispute resolution. Your moving contract may provide for arbitration, arbitration is a right under the Carmack Amendment for interstate moves, and if your movers are members of the American Moving and Storage Association, you are entitled to arbitration. Learn more about the AMSA’s dispute resolution programs.
- By filing a lawsuit – You can always dispute a bad bill by filing a lawsuit. Court filing fees can be expensive, though, as can be attorneys. Filing suit will make more sense if you can get attorney’s fees and consequential damages. Consult an attorney for more details.
- Through your credit card company – If you paid with credit card and were overcharged or unrightfully charged, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company. If they side with you, they’ll chargeback your account, leaving it up to the moving company to sue what what they say they are owed.
When a Moving Company Can Hold Onto Your Stuff
If you refuse to pay a disputed bill, the moving company may hold onto your stuff (assuming they haven’t already unloaded it). The legality of this move is up in the air. For the movers, your stuff is, essentially, collateral for the bill. However, if the bill is bogus, then the movers’ actions border on theft, if not extortion.
Simply put, if you refuse the pay a bill, a moving company may hold onto your stuff. However, whether they can do this without repercussion will depend on the situation. In any case, get police to come document the situation and know where you stuff is going to be kept while the bill remains outstanding.
Initial Steps for Disputing a Moving Company’s Bill
When you get a bill that doesn’t jive with your expectations, here’s what to do:
- Read the bill – Make sure you understand what the charges are, and which charges you don’t agree with.
- Read the contract – Check your moving contract to determine if it addresses the charges you have a problem with.
- Explain your issue – Explain your position to the movers as level-headedly as possible.
- Document the dispute – If you can take pictures of the issue (like a broken couch), then do so. If not, get in writing what the moving company’s position is – what’s their basis for charging you? Also, detail in writing what consequences will arise if the movers are going to keep your stuff.
- Contact the police – If you think you are involved in a moving scam, contact the police. The police may allow the movers the keep your stuff, but at least everything will be documented and official.
- Contact an attorney – An attorney is your best bet for challenging a bad bill.
5 Tips for Avoiding a Dispute with Your Moving Company
Like cancer, there’s no tried-and-true way to totally avoid disagreements. However, just the same, there are many ways to reduce your risk of getting into a disagreement with your moving company. Here are the top five ways to avoid a dispute with your movers:
- Contract – Make sure your moving contract covers all the potential costs. Learn more about what to include in your moving contract.
- Background check – Conduct a background check on the moving company by reading online reviews and checking public records. Learn how to find useful mover reviews online.
- Get a flat rate or price cap – If you get a flat rate moving price or a binding-not-to-exceed price, you won’t have to worry about hidden fees blowing up your move.
- In home estimates – In-home estimates let the moving company know exactly what they need to move.
- Be nice – The best way to avoid a dispute is to be courteous. If you’re rude or angry, your movers might bristle and be unwilling to compromise, whether they’re right or wrong. Be nice when you first raise the issue.