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Law guide

Removal companies

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Come the day of the move, many people will choose a removal company to move their possessions from their old property to their new property. This section provides some tips on choosing a removal service, as well as what to do when things go wrong.

Choosing a removal company

It is probably wise to approach three or more firms and get quotations. This will probably include a brief visit from the companies to assess your belongings in order to give you a quotation. Any reputable company should do this for free. The quote will usually be based on expected number of hours needed to complete the move, as well as extras, such as special containers needed, carpet laying, packing/unpacking etc.

The removal firm will be handling some of your most precious possessions and you want to make sure they are in a safe pair of hands. Consider using one that is a member of the British Association of Removers (BAR). BAR sets professional standards and has a code of conduct, approved by the Trading Standards Institute, which its members must follow. It also provides a complaints and disputes resolution service.

For more information, see the BAR website: British Association of Removers

Remember that if you hire a couple of cash-in-hand removal men with a van rather than an established company, the money you save might be wiped out by the cost of any damages which you are unlikely to be able to reclaim. Sometimes these people may also backtrack on their promises on the day, leaving you in the lurch. For instance, they may claim you have more to move then you originally said and refuse to do any more. Think about how much work you are willing to do yourself. Removal companies may offer a service in which they will not only move all your stuff for you, but pack it at your old home then unpack it at your new place. It will be more expensive than doing the work yourself but can save you a lot of time and stress.

Insurance

If you are shifting your possessions any great distance it's obvious that breakages can occur. Check to see if your household contents insurance covers you for damage during moving.

You should, in any event, ensure that your removal firm is covered for insurance and have a close look at the insurance policy before you sign up. Make sure there is no small print which can give rise to disputes later or which excludes items worth more than a certain value. You may wish to transport valuables and small items yourself.

Damages caused by the removal company

Section 13 of The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 states that, 'the supplier will carry out the service with reasonable care and skill'. So, if the removal company damages anything during the move, the customer may have a claim against the removal company in terms of section 13. (Although this act does not apply in Scotland, Scottish common law provides similar protection, meaning that the removal company will still have to carry out the service with reasonable care and skill.)

The company is, in all circumstances, obliged to perform what they are contracted to do. If a removal company has caused damage in the process of their removal, you can send a complaint to the company by writing them a letter.