Guide Moving Within Massachusetts

Getting ready to move? If you're moving household goods from your home in Massachusetts to another location within Massachusetts, your mover must be licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU). The DPU helps you by setting certain licensing and insurance requirements which movers must meet and by investigating complaints if you have a problem with your mover. No matter where you are moving or whether the move is large or small, you should take the time to carefully plan your relocation. This information will help you begin the process of moving within Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

How can I select a reputable mover?

It's best to reconfirm with the mover 48 hours in advance of your moving date.

A personal recommendation is the best way to start. Whether you use a company recommended by friends or choose a company through its advertising, be sure that any company you contact has an up-to-date DPU operating certificate number.  All household moving companies in Massachusetts must be licensed by the DPU to operate in Massachusetts.  They are subject to state laws and the Department's rules and regulations.  For example, movers licensed by the DPU are required to carry a minimum amount of cargo insurance.  However, your ability to recover for loss or damage is dependent upon your agreement with the mover.  All movers are also required to file the rates charged for various moving services.  These rates are called a tariff and they are filed with the DPU and available to the public.

Key Actions for How can I select a reputable mover?

How important is obtaining an estimate?

A written estimate where a company representative comes to your home is one of your best safeguards against overcharges and other potential issues. Verbal estimates over the phone or email are non-binding.  To obtain a reasonably accurate estimate, you must show the estimator everything you intend to ship. An estimate is not a bid or a contract and choosing the mover submitting the lowest estimate will not assure you of the lowest cost move. Regardless of any estimate provided, the final amount you must pay for your move is determined by the hourly rate or actual weight of your household goods, the amount of packing completed, and any other additional services performed by the mover.

Be sure to ask about all additional costs when you are given an estimate for your move. For example, moves based on hourly rates will be assessed a travel time charge in addition to the actual time it takes to complete your move. Travel time charges are calculated on the distance between the original point of loading and final point of unloading. Mileage is determined in accordance with approved mileage guides or vehicle odometer readings. For moves based on the weight of the shipment, the mover will not charge additionally for travel time.

Where can I find information about moving rates?

Moving companies must file their rates with the DPU and may not charge more or less than the rates on file.  You can request a copy of the mover's rates on file with the DPU. You can also inquire how the rates will be applied to the specific circumstances of your move. You can also ask if there are any other charges and how or why the final cost might differ from the estimate.

Who packs for the move?

That depends. Frequently, the customer packs all the household items in cartons and the mover takes care of protecting the furniture. When packing, you should use enough filler to reduce the chance of your items breaking. If you pack the cartons carefully and there is damage, the insurance company will consider the packing method as a determining factor in liability.

If you wish to have the mover pack all your household items, the mover will be more expensive but will be professionally completed. However, the mover may bear additional liability by providing this service.

What is the bill of lading?

The bill of lading is the contract between you and your mover. The mover is required by state law to prepare a bill of lading for every shipment it transports. The information on a bill of lading is required to be the same information shown on the order for service. The driver who loads your shipment must give you a copy of the bill of lading before loading your furniture.  The bill of lading requires the mover to provide the services you have requested and that you must pay the mover the charges for these services.

Before you sign it, double check that the bill of lading includes:

  1. The name of the moving company;
  2. The address of the moving company;
  3. The moving company's DPU license number; and
  4. The moving company's telephone number where you can reach them.

It should also indicate your address and telephone number where the mover can communicate information regarding your shipment. The bill of lading should also include the loading and delivery dates, storage instructions, if any, and the declared or released valuation of your shipment.

It is your responsibility to read the bill of lading (front & back) before you sign it. If you do not agree with something on the bill of lading, do not sign it until you are satisfied that it indicates the service you have ordered.

The bill of lading is a very important document. Do not lose or misplace your copy. You should have it available until your shipment is delivered, all charges are paid and all claims, if any, are settled.

How will I be expected to pay?

Discuss the method of payment before you move. Some companies request cash, some will accept a credit card or personal check, and others will only take a certified check. Payment depends on the terms of the bill of lading or your verbal agreement. Be sure to review the bill of lading carefully.

What's the movers responsibility for loss and damage?

60 cents Maximum liability calculation per pound for damaged or lost household goods

Many public movers offer a base rate called a declared rate which is on file with the DPU. The base rate limits the mover's responsibility for your goods to 60 cents per pound per article. This means that if any article is damaged or lost, you are entitled to be reimbursed for the actual damage or loss not to exceed 60 cents times the actual weight of the article.  Most movers offer you the option of increasing your declared value above 60 cents per pound per article. Check with your mover to see if this option is available.

If you will be moving items of special value, you should inquire about additional coverage for specific items. A mover's cargo insurance will not cover items of extraordinary value such as antiques or paintings. Separate moving and insurance arrangements may have to be made for these items. Ask the mover for a list of articles not covered by insurance.

The terms of the bill of lading may set specific limits on how long you have to report damage. Read the bill of lading carefully before you sign it. If you have a damage claim, save the damaged items so the mover or insurance adjuster will be able to make a proper judgment. It is in your best interest to report a claim promptly to the mover or adjuster and confirm it in writing.

What should I do if I am dissatisfied with any aspect of the move?

Your first step should be to contact the mover and explain the problem. Often, you will be able to resolve matters at this level with little difficulty. If you cannot resolve your issues with the mover, you should contact the DPU. The Department's Transportation Oversight Division is obligated to investigate written complaints.

Key Actions for What should I do if I am dissatisfied with any aspect of the move?

Who do I contact for intrastate moving or storage questions or complaints?

The DPU only has jurisdiction over movers solely within the state of Massachusetts.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has jurisdiction over movers that cross state lines.  You can contact the FMCSA with any questions at (888) 368-7238.

If an issue should arise regarding the storage of your shipment, contact the Office of Public Safety and Inspections at (617) 727-3200. The DPU does not regulate the storage of household goods.

Image credits:  George Headley

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