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How to avoid a moving nightmare

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If you're like most Americans, you've moved several times before and you'll move several times more. But, if you're not careful, everything you own - your clothes, your keepsakes, your furniture - it can all be held hostage.

The Drakes are finally feeling secure in their new home, but for weeks, they didn't know if that would ever happen.

At first, it seemed like luck was on their side when they bought their house, but their first day there, the feeling faded fast.

"The movers were due to deliver that same day. We closed on the home in the morning, and they were supposed to be here at noon. And then came 3:00, 4:00, and 5:00," said Kerri Drake.

Their belongings never made it, so they called the moving company.

"We were so nervous that we didn't know where our things were, and they weren't really being very forthcoming with telling us," added Kerri. 

Earl Beasley, a moving consultant, says, "The vast majority of household-goods movers are legitimate, honest, professional businessmen. That's not to say that everyone is."

Beasley has heard of the company Keri and Jeff used. It turns out the Drake's were dealing with a moving broker.

"And the term broker in the moving industry has kind of acquired a negative connotation," said Beasley. He explains, "Moving brokers find someone who owns a moving van to move their customers, and then the customer's goods are in the hands of this independent mover who basically has no supervision."

Keri kept calling the company they paid. She said, "Over the next couple of weeks, we heard a number of different things. It's in Virginia, it's in North Carolina. It's still in Ohio."

Eventually, Kerri's husband Jeff told the company that they were going to file a police report because their things were missing. Jeff says, "They said ‘We know where they are. You'll be committing a felony if you file a false report.'"

Eventually, Kerri called the Attorney General and that's when she learned her things had been sitting in a storage shed the entire time.

She believes the company couldn't book movers in a timely fashion to unpack their things, so they lied about storing it all because they didn't want to lose money by letting them unload the storage unit themselves.

"I can do without my furniture for the rest of my life. But my children's baby books and mementos, and family photos, and archives of our lives and history was all in that," said Kerri.

Experts say there's a golden rule here: get to know your mover. Establish one contact at any company you're considering. And make sure you can easily reach that person.

And something to remember - if a moving company is holding your possessions hostage, a recently signed Federal law could penalize them up to $10,000 per day - that ought to be a deterrent.

Plus, you can also log complaints with both the American Moving and Storage Association and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

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