Totally Legal: Dotting the I’s and Crossing the T’s of Moving
by Mary Leigh Howell
When you’re moving to a new home, ignoring little things in fine print can lead to big trouble. Justin and Bruce Meyer, attorneys from Meyer & Associates, gave SmartMove® the run-down on legal points you need to know when relocating.
- Know what’s yours. Talk with your real estate agent to understand what’s involved in the sales contract. Are light fixtures and drapes part of the deal? If so, make sure the movers know not to remove them. “Buyers may fall in love with the dining room chandelier,” says Bruce, “and insist it come with the house. You run into problems at closing when the buyer and seller don’t know exactly what’s included in the sale.”
- Define your closing date. Interpretation of closing dates varies from state to state, with some states specifying that a property must be vacant at closing, while others allow sellers to stay several days after the deal is done. “Ask how much flexibility you have with your moving date,” says Bruce. “If you need to stay in the house two days after closing, negotiate that in your contract.”
Justin adds, “Remember, if you stay longer than the dates specified, you may be penalized financially.”
Moving Your Belongings
- Research moving companies. Review ratings and comments for each moving company you’re considering with the Better Business Bureau. “Exercise the same intelligence in moving that you would for all business transactions,” says Bruce.
- Insure friends and family.Friends and family helping you move instead of a professional company? Ask your insurance agent if they are covered under your homeowner’s policy. “If your best friend slips a disc lifting your sofa,” says Bruce, “you’ll want the medical bills to be paid by your insurance.” And make sure they’re covered at your old house and your new home.
- Verify moving company insurance. If the moving van is in an accident, you want to ensure the moving company is liable, not you. Ask to see the company’s certificate of insurance. Are they insuring your goods during transport as well as their employees? Look for workman’s compensation and liability. “If they only carry $25,000 of coverage, that’s not enough to protect them and your goods,” says Bruce.
- Read the contract. Review the moving contract thoroughly for details on pricing and insurance, and double-check that the fine print hasn’t changed since your estimate. You might be surprised by how much the invoice may vary from the estimate, so check the language carefully. “These are companies that, for the most part, don't worry about repeat business,” says Justin.
- Don't sign if it’s not true. “As soon as we arrived at our new home,” Justin says about a recent family move, “the company wanted us to sign a six-page document stating everything was delivered in good condition and that we had inspected it. We hadn’t had time to inspect it, so I struck that from the contract and just affirmed that everything had been delivered.”
Simply stick to your guns. “If you haven't inspected it,” says Justin, “Don't sign something that says you did.”
Arriving at the New Place
- Know when you can occupy the property. Just as your sales contract specified the last day of residency at your old place, your new home purchase contract should be specific about when you can move in. Don’t assume the closing date means the property is empty and ready for your arrival.
- Clear your move with management. If you’re relocating to a private residence, there are normally no issues with timing. But if your new home is an apartment, a condo or a residence with a homeowners association, the management can dictate what time of day you move and which entrances you may use. Typically, buildings have a freight entrance, and you won’t be allowed to bring moving boxes through the front door or onto lobby elevators. Clear your date and time in advance to ensure your move goes smoothly.
Mary Leigh Howell specializes in communications for the home, furnishings and garden industries.