Q: We're retiring and moving out of town. We've heard many horror stories about crooked movers. Can Action Line tell us how can we check whether a moving company is reputable?
A: You're right to be exceedingly careful; you could lose all your belongings. This is an area that could use a lot more attention from watchdog groups.
But most of the problems that Action Line hears of arise from moving to or from another state; since you're moving within the state, you have better protection against unscrupulous movers.
Florida's Moving Services Act was introduced to protect people moving within the state and is regulated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Your mover must be registered with the department; you can check by calling, toll-free, 800-HELP-FLA (800-435-7352).
The mover should be able to demonstrate that it has valid liability insurance coverage, and it must provide you a written estimate and contract. It must also accept at least two forms of payment, including personal checks, credit card, money orders and cash.
Check the company's record with the Better Business Bureau. You can do that for free at www.bbb.org or by calling the Better Business Bureau of Southeast Florida in West Palm Beach, 561-842-1918. Recorded company reports are available 24 hours a day. (To avoid getting frustrated, remember that the BBB has no ability to lift a business' license or pursue any claims of damage; it's strictly an informational resource.)
The Consumer Services Department provides a free guide on moving. Find it online at www.800help fla.com/moving_text.html or call the toll-free number and ask for it to be mailed to you.
Q: I'm having a problem with a mover. Is there any recourse?
A: Yes, movers are regulated, and there are government agencies that can help:
Interstate moves: The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration regulates moves of household goods from one state to another. To file a complaint, call its consumer hotline at 888-368-7238; for more information, visit www.1-888-dot-saft.com.
Intrastate moves: The Department of Agrticulture and Consumer Services regulates moves within the state of Florida; 800-HELP-FLA (800-435-7352), www.800helpfla.com.
Local moves: Your county of residence can investigate problems with moves that take place within the tri-county area (between Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach). In Miami-Dade, contact Consumer Services at 305-375-3677, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.miamidade.gov/csd. In Broward, turn to Consumer Affairs: 954-357-5350, email@example.com, www.broward.org.