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NEWS | April 16, 2013

Top 5 moving claims mistakes; Part 2: Check your inventory

By James Akridge Fort Eustis Army Claims Branch

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second of a five-piece series designed to answer the question: "What are the top five moving claims mistakes?" This installment familiarizes the reader with the origin inventory and suggests tactics for dealing with the movers.

When moving days comes, trust that your movers will be fair and accurate in preparing the inventory, especially if you buy them pizza.

Do not be lazy with your inventory! In particular, if you are married, your spouse may not appreciate it when your household goods claim is adjudicated. Generally, carriers or transportation service providers (TSPs) must pay for losses they cause to household goods entrusted to their care. Ultimately, this cost comes directly out of TSP profits. Too many claimants have learned the hard way that TSPs can lessen their losses by overstating damages to your goods on the inventory at origin.

When you sign an inventory without noting exceptions, you have agreed that the codes called "exception symbols" and "location symbols" accurately depict pre-existing damages (PED). These symbols are defined near the top of each inventory page. For example, describing a table with "G-10" means "gouged on top." Other codes describe the piece of furniture as you face it. For example, the right arm of a chair would be the one on which your left arm would rest when you are seated in the chair.

It is recommended that you check the first page of the furniture inventory immediately upon completion. The packers cannot be expected to offer it to you until they want your signature at the bottom of each inventory page. By then, it is too late to have set the tone with your expectations for accuracy. Ask questions and, as appropriate, note your disagreement with all exaggerated PED at the space provided at the bottom of each page.

You are not allowed to write on the line where the mover listed an item or modify what has already been written. For example, you can note "Disagree with PED for item #208," on the "exceptions" space at the bottom of the respective page. Consider photographing pieces that do not have the damages as listed by the TSP's representative. Well before moving day, consult for tips on taking better photos for claims purposes.

The authority that allows payment of household goods claims, the Personnel Claims Act, requires substantiation of claims. It requires proof of each claimed item's ownership, its value, and that it was tendered to or moved by the movers. Generally, while purchase receipts and similar evidence is not required, it is best to retain such evidence for items valued in excess of $100. Some movers will use a separate "high value inventory."

Sometimes, movers neglect to inventory an obvious line item such as a refrigerator, sofa, or ladder. While not every family has the manpower to post a watch at the door to ensure that everything loaded onto the truck has been recorded on the inventory, it is a best practice. Planning ahead can minimize distractions during this critical time.

Hopefully, you took the time in advance of moving day to dispose of unnecessary items. This may help to avoid excess weight charges if your shipment exceeds your authorization. If you are having multiple shipments, they should be clearly separated at your residence. Schedule multiple shipments on different days to avoid confusion. You will want the right items going to the right destination.

Before signing the inventory, walk through the premises to make sure the movers have not left any items you intended to move. Ask yourself the following questions: Is the inventory legible? Does it accurately describe contents? For example, "tool box" does not imply that tools are inside the box. Is the toolbox padlocked? The toolbox should remain unlocked until the packers can inspect the contents. The inventory should reflect that it contains tools. A "tool chest" is different from a hand-carried "tool box."

The same is true for CD/DVD cases; actual counts of CDs/DVDs should be on the inventory. Commercially recorded products should be segregated and identified as such, e.g., "six original Disney movie DVDs." If you do not insist on the packers re-packing the contents of any household plastic storage totes, you will find the inventory coding them as "PBO." That loosely translates into no liability for loss or damage to its contents. Crystal should not be listed merely as "dishes" or "kitchen items." Did you note your disagreement with exaggerated PED? Likewise, expensive figurines should be identified, e.g., five Llardro figurines.

Do not argue with the carrier's representative. If you have a problem with the movers, call your Transportation Office at once. If all else fails, make a statement in the space provided at the bottom of the inventory describing the problem prior to signing. Keep your copy of the inventory in a file folder with all your other transportation papers. You should also have a copy of the government bill of lading or service order that applies to your shipment. The movers probably will not have this document at pack-out, so you should obtain one from Transportation in advance.

For safekeeping, consider scanning and e-mailing important papers and photos to yourself or storing them on-line. Arrange to transport personally vital documents such as birth and marriage certificates, passports, wills, and other legal documents. Remove from the shipment all easily pilferable items such as cash, coins, furs and jewelry. Consider whether to ship and insure them at your own expense. Further guidance is available in the "It's Your Move" pamphlet at the website. By the way, while you may tip anyone in your discretion, you can expect the government to pay the moving company for its services. Pizza is never required.

NOTE: This article is not intended as a comprehensive overview of any claims program or to provide guidance tailored to any specific situation. It is not intended as legal advice. See the websites noted below for more information, or contact your servicing military claims office or transportation office. The Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard provide centralized or regionalized claims support. The Fort Eustis Army Claims Office can provide assistance to all service and family members at (757) 878-3536, extension 224. - United States Air Force Claims website - United States Army Claims Service website - United States Navy Claims website - Department of Defense Household Goods Portal - U.S. Coast Guard HHG Claims website - Fort Eustis Claims Office website or
Facebook at Joint-Base-Langley-Eustis-Army-Claims-Office