What to know before hiring a mover

From damage to loss, I-TEAM looks into what’s covered and what’s not

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The News4JAX I-TEAM is digging deeper into damages caused by moving companies and what we learned may surprise you.

We began our investigation after a Mandarin man reached out — furious after he says movers hired by someone else — caused nearly $70,000 in damages inside and outside of his house.

Trent Sebok says he came home to find a lot of problems — starting with his solid mahogany door.

“They could have easily opened the doors, they just didn’t and damaged the doors in the process,” Sebok said.

Sebok says he came home to find a lot of problems — starting with his solid mahogany door. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

As he walked the I-TEAM through his home, he pointed out the damage.

“There are 32 places on the floors that are damaged, and it’s not fixable,” Sebok said.

In the kitchen, he says, movers dropped something on his expensive stone countertops.

“All these slabs were picked out together from one lot, and so, if they try to remake this, it’s never going to match,” he said.

Jennifer Waugh speaks with Trent Sebok. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

The trail weaves through his house and into his garage — right to his SUV.

“They just scooted by it, and they hit the vehicle in multiple places,” Sebok said.

He says he also found damage on the deck of his guest house.

“So, they damaged the first step obviously, and then they actually went, they dropped a couch with a sleeper sofa in it, and it went through the deck,” he showed us. “Here and two more holes over there.”

Sebok tells us that when he contacted the mover, the company did send someone to assess the damage, but the outcome was not what he expected.

“(He) took pictures, documented everything and said there was absolutely nothing he could do, that it was above his scope of work,” Sebok explained.

Sebok says that his floors alone will cost $56,000 to repair and that the holes in his deck will cost another $11,000 to fix. He tells us he’s been back and forth for months with the company with no apology.

Sebok says the holes in his deck will cost $11,000 to fix. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

“Thirty-one emails and zero resolution,” he said.

The I-TEAM did reach out to the moving company but has not heard back.

Sebok says that $68,293 in damage was done to his home and that he could file a claim with his homeowner’s insurance, but that could increase his premiums.

He says he’s hired an attorney to pursue damages through the mover’s insurance.

Sebok says $68,293 in damage was done to his home. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Coverage for damages by a mover

The I-TEAM has learned moving companies are not required by the state of Florida to carry insurance that would cover damage caused to a home.

However, movers are required to carry liability insurance to cover loss or damage to your furniture, but you should know the standard reimbursement with basic coverage is not based on value but on weight — 60 cents per pound.

For example, if movers damage your $200 table that weighs 30 pounds, they will multiply that weight by 60 cents. You will get $18 to repair it.

Also, if movers smash your 2-year-old washing machine, they’re not required to replace it with a new one. You will likely be given the fair-market value instead — which means you’ll have to pay the difference to buy another one.

And something else: If you try to box up some of your own stuff before the movers arrive, you should know the movers are not responsible for items in boxes they did not pack. So, if you open the box later and find items are damaged — that’s on you.

What to know when hiring a mover

Before you hire a mover, check with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The state agency tracks complaints for moves within the state of Florida.

You’ll want to ask the company what kind of liability coverage it offers. Remember, in general, moving insurance covers damage done to household items while in transit in the moving van — not anywhere else.

  • Your professional moving company should have more than one liability coverage option for you to choose from.
  • The bare-minimum coverage called “released value protection” is typically included in your moving contract.
  • The next-level option is referred to as “full value protection” moving insurance. If you choose it, expect to pay about 1% of the total estimate of the value of your personal belongings.

Also, don’t just assume your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover personal property and reimburse you. Some policies may only protect your household goods while the movers are packing them in your home.

If you are moving to or from another state, all moving companies are required by federal regulations to offer two types of coverage to consumers.

Ways to protect yourself

If you’ve hired a moving company, before you allow a mover into your home, be sure to take pictures of everything you want them to move. This way, if you do need to file a claim, you can show a before and after photo of your damaged item.

Do these things, as well:

  • Let your moving company know if you have articles of extraordinary value.
  • Communicate about any valuables in writing.
  • Don’t wait to report loss and/or damage. You have nine months following either the date of delivery or the date on which the shipment should have been delivered to file a written claim.

About the Authors:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.