Every May, Better Business Bureaus across Canada team up with the Canadian Association of Movers for Moving Month, timed to get ahead of the peak moving seasons in the summer and fall and hopefully help people make good decisions when hiring movers. It’s especially important this year: in a time when you have to strategize a trip to the grocery store, imagine the complications of moving to a new house. 

In this industry, trust really matters. Not only is moving expensive (at least a few thousand dollars in most cases), you’re entrusting every one of your possessions to people you’ve probably never met before. Moving and storage companies are among the top five industries for complaints across Canada, with 600 complaints filed with BBB through 2019 and almost 200,500 inquiries. Most of these complaints are related to damaged or missing items, bills that exceeded the estimates, late deliveries, and in some cases, goods held hostage for additional payments.

There are some excellent moving companies that care about customer service and look after their employees and customers with the right insurance coverage. There are also some lesser-qualified companies with whom every experience is a gamble. And then there are rogue movers: companies that are no more than a slick-looking website with fake testimonials, lowball quotes that draw victims in, and no equipment of their own. These sketchy players contract out to unskilled labour in rented trucks. That’s how people end up with their belongings held hostage on a truck or in a storage locker.

Throughout the pandemic, movers have remained active as an essential service, but there have been changes that increase the risk of a dispute. The most significant change is the way the provide estimates.

In normal times, a good moving company sends someone into your home to walk through every room, noting everything that needs moving, before providing a quote. Most companies aren’t able to do that now, so virtual tours (either photos or even a video walk-through) are more common. This can mean a greater variance from the quote to the final bill. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the company is trying to rip you off; it’s far more difficult to accurately gauge weight and complexity just by looking at photos.

Even with this added complexity, there are a few things you can do to help make a smooth move more likely.

  • Check out the company’s rating and complaint history with BBB, and its standing with CAM. And keep in mind that choosing a mover accredited by BBB means that we’ve already done a lot of the investigative due diligence that you should do. And asking friends and family for recommendations is always a good idea.
  • Ask a mover about replacement valuation protection (RVP), the total value of a shipment based on the weight of the goods you are moving. The number one complaint at CAM is damage to a consumer’s shipment that was not covered correctly under the RVP.
  • Get three written estimates from different movers. Though most professional movers do give estimates over the phone, it’s best that these be based on personal visits to your home or, most commonly during the pandemic, virtual surveys. If an estimate seems too good to be true, it likely is.
  • Prepare for damage. Though trustworthy movers are trained to handle your belongings and your home with care, it is difficult to move an entire household without at least some damage. If you can’t afford to lose it (passports and other critical documents, cherished photographs, and other valuables) take it with you rather than packing it with the move.
  • Watch for red flags. If a mover doesn’t provide replacement valuation protection details, a company street address, proof of worker’s compensation, or a GST/HST number, walk away. 

If you can postpone a move, it’s probably best. Speaking from recent personal experience, it’s really difficult to relocate with all the health precautions in place. But if you do have to move, do your homework and work with a company who’ll care for your belongings like they were their own.

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