Moving Contracts: The Ultimate Breakdown of Terms

If you decide to use a moving company for your upcoming relocation, you'll need to enter into a contract. A moving contract can be beneficial for you and your moving company. It ensures that both parties agree on what is to be moved and are on the same page about what will happen if something is damaged in transit.

It's important to understand common moving terms that may be used in your contract. While moving companies deal with contracts every day, it's understandable if, for example, you don't currently understand the difference between full-value replacement and released-value replacement or the different types of moving estimates.

If you don't have a basic knowledge of moving company lingo, you could end up signing a contract that does not meet your needs or that costs more than you expect. For example, if your goods are damaged in transit, your contract may specify a reimbursement that is smaller than you expect. You could also fail to properly inform the moving company about your possessions that have exceptional value.

Below is a list of common terms you may find in your moving contract and some examples of their application.

110 percent rule - This refers to a rule established in 2003 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which states that movers may only charge 110 percent of a non-binding estimate when household goods are delivered. That means that your final cost should not be more than 110 percent of the initial non-binding quote. The only way that a carrier can charge you more than 110 percent is if the total weight of the goods moved exceeds the amount stated in the estimate.

Assessing costs - These are the expenses that may be factored into an estimate to determine how much you will need to pay for a move. Some of the most common assessing costs include additional charges, advanced charges, replacement coverage and line haul charges.

Additional charges - Sometimes referred to as accessorial charges, additional charges cover services provided by the moving company beyond loading, transporting and unloading your belongings. These extra services may include packing your household items, preparing large items like pianos or grandfather clocks for shipping, and making deliveries to homes on roads that do not allow large vehicle access.

Advanced charges
- When a third-party company has to do something to allow movers access to items in your home, such as disconnecting a gas line, the moving company may pay the third party on your behalf. The cost of the service required will be added to your final bill.

Agents – You may work with a variety of agents throughout your move. Agents are generally representatives of other companies or organizations who help you or the moving company. Some agents represent local moving companies that perform services on behalf of larger companies, and booking agents schedule your move. Destination agents work in the area you are moving to and provide information to you and your mover about your new location. There are also origin agents; they provide assistance in preparing for your move, such as by packing cartons or answering questions about your upcoming move.

Bill of lading - This is the receipt stating that a moving company has taken possession of your household goods. It also contains your contract, and it defines where and how a moving company will transport your goods. You should read and review it carefully before signing to ensure that it is accurate. Be sure to hold on to it until the move is complete and you've inspected all your possessions.

Carrier's liability for loss or damage - The carrier's liability depends on the type of coverage you choose and determines how you will be compensated for goods that are damaged, lost or destroyed.

Claims - If something goes wrong during your move and items are damaged, you'll need to file a claim with the moving company. It is important that you understand your mover's claims process so that you are properly compensated for damages. Additionally, you must file a claim within a set period of time; if you do not file according to the time frame set in place by your mover, you may inadvertently waive your rights to compensation.

Consignor/Consignee - The consignor is the individual who signs the paperwork that allows a shipper to take possession of household goods and transport them; the consignee is the individual who signs for the receipt of the goods at their final destination. Some moving companies require that the consignor and consignee be the same person unless other arrangements are made.

Door-to-door service and door-to-port service - The majority of moves are door-to-door service moves, meaning that your household belongings are removed from one home and transported to the new home. Door-to-port services are usually employed for overseas moves, and the goods are taken from your home and sent to a port in the region you are moving to. There are normally additional charges for getting your household items to your new home from the port.

Estimates - There are two types of estimates you may receive from a moving company: binding and non-binding. With a binding estimate, you will not be required to pay anything above the estimate, assuming that the weight values are accurate. A non-binding estimate is a reasonable approximation of your moving costs, including extra charges, and you will not be required to pay more than 110 percent of the cost estimated.

Full-service mover - When you want a moving company to handle everything, from packing up your household items to preparing large, expensive items for transport, you will need a full-service mover. Full-service movers can also unpack and set up your belongings at your new home, and they can dispose of packing materials and assemble some household items for you as well.

Full-value replacement and released-value replacement - When you have a moving company transport your household goods, you can choose from two different levels of protection offered by the moving company. Full-value replacement means that the moving company will provide full replacement or repair value for items listed as being worth more than $100 per pound. Released-value replacement is a much lower payout for lost or damaged items, and it is usually just $0.60 per pound of damaged household goods. With released-value replacement coverage, if a 50-pound TV were damaged during your move, the moving company would only be required to pay you $30 for its repair or replacement. There is no additional charge for this coverage.

Gross weight - The term gross weight in a moving contract refers to the total weight of a moving van after it has been loaded with your household goods. The total weight of your household items is normally a key determining factor in how much you'll pay for a move.

Inventory sheets - When moving day arrives, your moving company will provide you with inventory sheets, which list everything the movers are transporting. Most movers tag items as they are packed and loaded and then record the tag numbers on the inventory sheets. You can use the inventory sheets to determine if everything you own has been loaded and verify that everything arrives at your new home. If you have high-value items in your home, you may be given a separate high-value inventory sheet. It is a good idea to verify that any valuable items you own are put on the high-value inventory list, or you may not be able to obtain appropriate compensation if they are damaged during the move.

Line haul charges - These charges are based on the distance that your household items are being moved and how much your household goods weigh.

Storage-in-transit, or SIT - If items in your household need to be stored at a separate location from your new home before their final delivery, you will probably be billed for storage-in-transit charges. For example, there may be a gap in the leases for your old and new homes, so you have to stay in a hotel for a week before move-in day.

- In moving, valuation is the limit on what a mover is responsible for if something is damaged or lost in transit. Valuation is the declared value of what household goods are worth in total, and the shipper will not be responsible for more than this amount.

Weight ticket - Once your items have been loaded into a moving van, the van will be weighed on certified scales. You'll be given a weight ticket, sometimes referred to as the scale ticket, that shows the total weight of the van before and after it was loaded. This is the final weight of your household goods.