DENVER (CBS4)- Spring is the beginning of the moving season. According to the United States Census Bureau, out of 4,953,832 Coloradans in 2009, 903,691 of them moved, that’s 18.2 percent of the population. It’s not hard to believe that the numbers will be similar this year. Moving is a chore that most people dread, but a few precautions can keep you from having a bad experience. CBS4 Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks looked into the moving consumers’ rights and how to research a good mover.
In Colorado, movers are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) as part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies. The PUC sets insurance and registration requirements as well as establishes minimum service standards.
“The biggest thing is for the consumers to do their homework, to be prepared, to get as much in writing that they can get, and in detail that they can get,” said Terry Bote, PUC spokesperson.
Thornton resident Julie Wesling recently moved from Aurora. She says the move went wrong.
“We were so upset about what happened to us and if we could just prevent somebody else from getting the same kind of treatment,” Wesling said.
She and her husband hired Colorado Moving Company after finding an ad on craigslist. They were drawn in by the low rates, but were disappointed in the end results. When their furniture arrived at their new home, they say there was a gouge in the dining room table, scuffs in the entertainment center, and one scratch after another in their bedroom furniture.
“It’s just an awful feeling,” Wesling added.
Jeff Johnson moved just six blocks with Colorado Moving Company. He also experienced gouged furniture, scratched appliances, and lamps broken beyond repair.
“When they were packing their van they packed a bunch of our big furniture, not so much the boxes, and all their furniture padding was left out on the sidewalk,” Johnson said.
What Johnson and Wesling did not know is that Colorado Moving Company has been in business less than a year. The Secretary of State’s website shows they formed as a business August 3, 2010. The company’s permit with the PUC was revoked.
“It was revoked in April due to a cancellation of their insurance,” said Bote.
Even with a revoked license, the company was still booking moves.
“In the case of operating without insurance, that’s up to $11,000 per violation,” Bote explained.
Colorado Moving Company owner Oliver Maldonado called the revoked license an accident.
“It was a fair mistake that I made. I just started this moving company last year and I’m not aware of all the rules,” Maldonado said.
He said that his license was only revoked for a week, the PUC confirmed it was out for three weeks. He told CBS4 Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks that it was reinstated when it wasn’t. Maldonado did get his license back though within days of his interview with CBS4.
He defends himself and his company as providing the best amount of service for the lowest amount of money.
“We’ve tried to rectify almost every situation that’s come up that I’ve been notified of, and I think we’ve gone above and beyond in most instances,” Maldonado said.
Jeff Johnson and Julie Wesling disagree.
The PUC urges every consumer:
— To check the registration of the company they’re thinking about using. That active registration verifies the mover is licensed and has the necessary insurance to protect customers.
— State law requires movers to provides services and costs in writing.
— Movers cannot withhold goods if a customer pays the fees as specified, and prescription medication and children’s items cannot be withheld for any reason.
“We do not have authority for damage to goods or rates,” Bote said.
But the PUC does take complaints about intrastate movers. To file a complaint, call the PUC Consumer Affairs office at 303-894-2070 or 1-800-456-0858.
“My main advice would be to do their homework,” Bote added.
Moving consumers can head off a lot of problems by following some simple steps:
— Get 3 estimates for your move in writing
— Make sure the movers come to your home to make their estimates, do not accept any estimates over the phone.
— Consumers should also get as many specifics as possible in writing, especially what happens if something gets damaged.
— Also take pictures of your furniture and valuables as a record in case damage is done.