How to Choose Your Mover
Your Guide to
Moving in Washington State
When moving within Washington, you have important rights guaranteed
by state law and enforced by the Washington Utilities and Transportation
This guide is designed to help you be an informed consumer BEFORE,
DURING, and AFTER your household move.
- Choose a professional mover with a UTC permit.
- Understand your rights and responsibilities.
- Get a written, signed estimate, and have it available when you pay
the final bill.
- Ask for an inventory and check it for accuracy.
- Understand and agree with the bill of lading before you sign it.
- Have the mover explain his liability for loss and damage.
- Be at the destination at the agreed-upon time for delivery.
- Check the condition of your property before you sign the bill of
- Keep the bill of lading
- Keep the lines of communication open with your mover at all times.
- If you experience problems, contact the UTC at 1-800-562-6150 or
- You will learn how to evaluate and choose a mover, how to compare
moving charges and estimates and how to avoid and reduce loss or damage
to your property.
BEFORE THE MOVE
Select a Mover with a UTC Permit
Your mover should have a valid UTC permit. Companies handling moves
within Washington without a permit are violating state law. A mover
with a UTC permit must comply with state safety, insurance and service
standards. They also must perform their services at reasonable rates
and within a reasonable time. Movers without a permit operate outside
the law and may provide little, if any, protection for loss or damage
to your belongings. The UTC can enforce the law and help protect your
When shopping for a moving company, get recommendations from neighbors,
friends and co-workers who have used a mover recently. Ask for and check
the company's references. Contact the UTC and the Better Business Bureau
to inquire about consumer complaints.
Trust Your Instincts
If a mover makes you feel uncomfortable, go with another company.
The UTC sets the minimum and maximum rates a mover can charge you for
moving services. You may get a copy of these rates, called a tariff,
from your mover, the UTC or by visiting the UTC website at www.utc.wa.gov.
Moving costs are calculated by one of two methods:
- Moves 56 miles and over - Rates are based on the weight of your
goods and the distance hauled.
- Moves up to and including 55 miles - Rates are based on the number
of workers used; the amount of time it takes to load, move and unload
your goods; and the mover's hourly rate for service.
Movers are required to provide you with a free written estimate of the
probable cost of your move. Verbal estimates are not allowed. The estimate
should clearly and accurately describe all charges.
There are two types of estimates:
- A non-binding estimate is an educated guess of what your move would
cost based on the mover's survey of your belongings. Your final cost
can be more than your non-binding estimate, though in no instance
are you required to pay more than 25 percent above the estimate and
any supplemental estimate.
- A binding estimate is a written agreement that guarantees the price
you pay based on the items to be moved and the services listed on
Regardless of which type of estimate you get, you are best served by
an accurate one. Show or provide the estimator with information about
every single item to be moved, including items in the attic, basement,
garage, shed, closets and under beds. Reach a clear understanding about
the amount of packing and other services needed.
The mover is required to make an inventory list of your property. Make
sure the list is legible and accurate. If you disagree with the inventory,
note it on the list before you sign it. Make sure all notations also
appear on the mover's copy. Without an inventory, you could have difficulty
proving a claim.
Anything omitted from the estimate but later included in your move
will add to the cost. If circumstances change from the time of the estimate
resulting in additional costs, the mover must provide a supplemental
estimate, and have you sign it, before performing the additional services.
DURING THE MOVE
Bill of Lading
The bill of lading is your contract with the mover. It states the mover's
responsibilities, such as the services they will perform, when and how
they charge for the move and what liability they will assume. Be sure
you understand the bill of lading contract, especially the part about
the mover's liability for loss or damage, and get a copy. Movers are
required to issue you a bill of lading, so do not hire a mover who does
not want to use one.
If there are differences between what is written on your estimate and
on your bill of lading, or if you do not understand something, ask the
mover to explain it to your satisfaction.
You must sign the bill of lading contract before the truck leaves with
your belongings and sign it again as a receipt upon delivery. The driver
should also sign the bill of lading as a receipt that your belongings
were picked up. If you cannot read the signature, ask the driver to
print his/her name below the signature. Do not sign the bill of lading
until you understand it and agree with it.
Be sure you keep your copy of the bill of lading safe and available
until your belongings are delivered and unpacked.
If you choose to file a claim, you'll need to submit a copy of the
bill of lading with the claim.
Loss and Damage
Movers must assume some level of liability for loss or damage to your
belongings during your move. Your mover's liability will likely be less
than the value of your goods. The mover is not liable for the full value
of your property unless you pay an additional charge for that protection.
Mover's liability and insurance is not the same thing, so it is
a good idea to see your insurance agent to determine if you need additional
coverage. Movers must explain their liability for loss or damage to
your property and how you can increase your protection.
The amount of the mover's liability depends on the level of protection
you select. The greater the liability assumed by the mover, the more
costly the option is for you. In selecting a liability option, you should
consider the following:
- The value of the belongings being moved;
- The susceptibility of those belongings to damage;
- The degree of risk you are willing to accept; and
- The cost of the protection.
You may choose from the following liability options (see Loss and Damage
- Basic Value Protection
- Replacement Cost Coverage with Deductible
- Replacement Cost Coverage with No Deductible
LOSS AND DAMAGE PROTECTION OPTIONS
OPTION ONE - Basic Value Protection
Option 1 provides the minimum level of liability a mover may assume
when moving your belongings. The mover's maximum liability for the entire
shipment is 60 cents per pound for the total shipment.
Coverage: The mover will pay at 60 cents per pound for each lost
or damaged article. Example: if a two-pound vase were broken, you would
be paid $1.20.
Cost: You do not pay extra for this coverage.
OPTION TWO - Replacement Cost Coverage, with deductible
Option 2 provides full coverage, less a $300 deductible. The mover�s
maximum liability is your declared value of the belongings, or $5.00
times the weight of the total shipment, whichever is greater (less the
Coverage: The mover will repair the damage to your satisfaction,
pay you for the lost or damaged articles (less the $300 deductible),
or replace the lost or damaged article for any amount over the $300
deductible. The $300 deductible applies to the entire shipment rather
than each individual article.
Cost:The mover may charge minimum of 55 cents and a maximum
of $1.15 per $100 of declared value. Declared value may not be less
than $5.00 per pound of the total shipment weight.
OPTION THREE - Replacement Cost Coverage, with no deductible
Option 3 provides full value replacement coverage for your belongings.
The mover's maximum liability is your declared value, or $5.00 times
the weight of the total shipment weight, whichever is greater.
Coverage:The mover will repair damage to your satisfaction,
reimburse you for the replacement cost, or replace lost or damaged articles.
Cost:The mover may charge a minimum of 66 cents and a maximum
of $1.40 per $100 of your declared value. Declared value may not be
less than $5.00 per pound of the total shipment weight.
Note: Option 2 and Option 3 do not apply to:
- Antiques, fine arts, painting, statuary, and similar articles, that
by their inherent nature cannot be replaced with new articles.
- Articles whose age or history contributes substantially to their
value. This includes, but is not limited to: memorabilia, souvenirs,
and collectors items.
Loss and Damage Exceptions:
If the mover decides to reimburse you for, or replace, a lost or damaged
item, the item becomes the property of the mover.
You may include the following items in a shipment however, the mover
is not responsible for the condition or safe delivery of:
- Coins, currency, deeds, notes, postage stamps, letters, drafts or
valuable papers of any kind.
- Jewelry, precious stones, or precious metals.
- Items of extraordinary value.
- Items requiring temperature control.
- Household pets.
- Live plants.
- Perishable items.
- Furniture or other items made of pressboard, particle board or similar
The mover is not liable for the loss of or damage to any article for
the following circumstances:
- Breakage, when items are packed by you or your representative unless
it can be proved that the breakage resulted from negligence by the
mover in handling the articles.
- Internal damage to electronics (radios, stereos, VHS players, CD/DVD
players, televisions, computers, printers, scanners, etc.) when no
visible damage to the external packaging or contents exists or if
the item was packed by you or your representative.
- Loss or damage from insects, moths, vermin, mold, fungus or bacteria
within your belongings or that develop therein due to conditions present
before the mover picks up your belongings.
- Loss or damage because the item was in an obvious state of disrepair
at the time of shipment, provided that the mover noted the disrepair
on the inventory form.
- An act, omission, or order, or loss or damage resulting from your
inclusion in the shipment of such articles as explosives, dangerous
articles or dangerous goods.
- Defective design of an article, including susceptibility to damage
because of atmospheric conditions such as temperature or humidity
- Hostile or warlike action or use of any weapon of war (in time of
peace or war), terrorism, insurrection, rebellion, revolution, civil
war, usurped power, and action taken in hindering, combating, or defending
against such occurrences: a) by any government or sovereign power,
or by authority maintaining or using military forces; b) by military
forces; or, c) by an agent of such government, power, authority or
- Seizure, confiscation or destruction under quarantine by order of
any government or public authority.
- Strikes, lockouts, labor disturbances, riots, civil commotions or
the acts of any person or persons taking part in any such occurrence
- Acts of God.
Movers will not accept the following items for shipment:
- Dangerous goods; or
- Property liable to damage the mover's equipment or other property.
Moves of 56 Miles or More
Charges for moves of 56 miles or more are based on weight and distance.
To determine the net weight of your shipment, the mover weighs the empty
vehicle then reweighs it after loading your belongings into the truck
or by other methods approved in the UTC tariff.
At your request, the mover will notify you of the weight and charges
as soon as the net weight of your shipment is established. You are entitled
to witness the official weighing of the loaded vehicle if you request
to do so. The mover can also re-weigh the shipment before delivery at
your request if it is practical to do so. You are responsible for the
cost of re-weighing the shipment.
Packing, Delivery and Inspection
Be there when your goods are packed, loaded, unloaded and unpacked.
If you can not be there, have someone you trust represent you. If you
are not there and delivery can not be made because of your absence,
your property may be put in storage at your expense (see STORAGE section
of this document for more information).
Review the inventory sheets of all items loaded into the truck. Be
sure you agree with the company's comments about the condition of the
items being moved. You will be asked to sign certain documents. Ask
questions if you do not understand the documents or process.
Check for damage, particularly to valuable items, while the mover is
present. If there is a box or container that will not be unpacked right
away, you and the mover should inspect it for signs of damage. Do not
sign any delivery papers until you inspect your belongings and check
them against the inventory. Record any damages on your copy and the
mover's copy of the bill of lading and the inventory form. This will
help later if you have to file a claim. If you find damaged goods after
the mover has left, keep the items and packing materials as they were
in the box, or set aside damaged belongings that were not packed. Call
the mover immediately so that a claims representative can inspect them.
If you choose to file a claim, it must be filed with the mover within
nine months from the date of delivery.
Payment of Charges
Unless you make credit arrangements, you must pay all legal charges
for the move before your goods are unloaded.
If charges are more than the written non-binding estimate, the mover
must unload and release all of your goods if you pay 110 percent of
the amount of the estimate and supplemental estimates. The mover is
required to give you at least 30 days to pay the balance.
Even if you receive only a non-binding estimate, there is a limit to
the amount you are required to pay. UTC rules ensure that in no instance
are you required to pay more than 25 percent above the estimate and
any supplemental estimate.
AFTER THE MOVE
All claims for loss or damage must be filed in writing with the mover.
Ask the mover for a claim form. Claims must be filed within nine months
from the date of delivery. If your shipment is lost, the claim must
be filed within nine months of the date upon which delivery should have
Report the loss or damage as soon as you discover it. File your claim
as soon as possible while memories are fresh.
Claims must contain sufficient information to identify the property
involved. A copy of the original bill of lading should accompany your
Your mover must acknowledge your written claim within 10 days, and
act on it (pay, settle or deny) within 90 days. Be sure to keep the
damaged property. The mover has the right to inspect any damaged property
before settling a claim.
While UTC staff can sometimes facilitate negotiations between parties,
we cannot require you or the mover to settle loss and damage claims.
Still, if after working with the mover you remain unsatisfied with the
outcome, you should contact the UTC.
If the mover will not voluntarily settle a claim to your satisfaction,
you may file suit in a court of law. Depending on the amount contested,
you may be able to use small claims court.
If you are not satisfied with the mover's services and have paid all
legal charges for your move, the mover must provide you with all of
the information and forms necessary to file a complaint.
You should first try to resolve your dispute with the mover. Many disputes
can be resolved by asking for a supervisor.
If you are not satisfied with the response from your moving company,
contact the UTC Consumer Affairs staff at 1-800-562-6150 or fill out
our on-line complaint form at www.utc.wa.gov.
If during your move, some or all of your belongings must be stored either
temporarily or long term, the following rules will apply based on the
type of storage.
Storage in Vehicle
Storage-in-Vehicle service is when your belongings are temporarily stored
in or on the mover's vehicle instead of being moved into a warehouse.
Not all companies offer this option since it ties up their equipment
for the storage period. The following rules apply to SIV service:
- Belongings must not be stored for more than 15 days, unless you
and the mover agree to an extension.
- The vehicle must be parked in a safe, secured area and locked at
- The vehicle must be in good condition, not subject to leakage, pilferage
or entry by vermin or insects.
- The mover must continue to accept responsibility for any loss or
damage during SIV at the loss and damage protection level selected
on the bill of lading.
- The mover will charge for every day your belongings are stored in
the vehicle. Your bill of lading must include a notation stating you
have requested SIV service and agree to pay the stated rate. Refer
to the Household Goods Tariff on the UTC's web page for the latest
There are two types of warehouse storage: Storage-in-Transit (90 days
or less) and Permanent Storage (more than 90 days). Regardless of the
type of warehouse storage you authorize, you will be required to pay
a fee that includes the rent for the storage space and a charge for
moving your belongings in and out of storage. Both the mover and the
warehouse must maintain the following information:
- An itemized list of stored belongings.
- The bill of lading number.
- The origin and destination
- The condition of each item when received at and forwarded from the
- The dates when all charges, advances, or payments were made or received.
- The dates when delivered into, and forwarded from, the warehouse.
Storage in Transit
- Transporting your belongings from the origin point to the warehouse.
- Storage for the first 30-day period.
- Warehouse handling.
- Loss and damage protection during the temporary storage.
- Any additional services provided by the mover, such as packing materials,
overtime charges, third party billings, etc.
If your belongings are not removed from storage within 90 days, your
move is considered completed and the following conditions apply:
- Mover's liability terminates at midnight on the 90th day.
- The warehouse is considered the destination point for your belongings.
- Your stored belongings are subject to the rules, regulations, and
charges of the warehouse. You will need to deal directly with the
- The mover must bill you for all charges accrued to date.
Permanent storage is warehouse storage for longer than 90 days. In this
case, the destination of your move is the warehouse. You will pay the
mover for the move and pay the warehouse separately for storage costs.
Permanent storage is not regulated by the UTC. Review carefully any
documents you receive from the warehouse.
- When your belongings are placed in permanent storage, the mover
will bill you for:
- Transportation to the warehouse.
- Charges for loss and damage protection during the move to the warehouse.
- Any additional services provided such as packing materials, overtime,
third party billings, etc.
- The mover's liability for value protection ends when your belongings
enter permanent storage.
- Many warehouses limit their liability on goods in storage to 10
cents per pound per article unless you purchase additional protection.
This means the warehouse would pay only $1 for a 10-pound lamp broken
lamp, even if it is worth $200.
You are not obligated to use the same mover when leaving storage. But
whether you use your original mover or a new one, you will have to pay
for moving your belongings out of storage and all other charges associated
with the move.
Other Reasons for Storage
The mover may place your belongings into storage at the public warehouse
nearest the point of destination if the mover is unable to make delivery
- The mover was unable to locate you or your representative at the
address given or the correct address.
- You or your representative refused or were unable to accept delivery.
- On a shipment moving under a non-binding estimate, you were unable
or refused to pay up to 110 percent of the amount of the original
The mover's liability ends with delivery to the public warehouse and
the shipment becomes subject to the warehouse's liability, terms and
conditions. The mover must mail or deliver a written notice to your
destination address advising that it was unable to make delivery.
The mover must notify you by every means of contact the mover has
for you, including telephone, e-mail, and fax, and the mover must
mail or deliver a written notice to the destination address advising
that it was unable to make delivery and advising you of the name,
address e-mail address, if applicable, and telephone number of the
warehouse where the shipment is stored. The written notice must include
a statement that if you do not receive or claim the shipment within
30 days of the date the written notice was mailed, the shipment becomes
subject to disposition by the mover in accordance with the Washington
State Uniform Commercial Code, Chapter 62A.7 RCW.