Even in the best conditions, moving to a new home can be a delicate operation. Although you may take all the usual precautions, objects can still get damaged: a broken mirror, a scratched table, dented appliances… However, if you’ve hired a specialized company for your move, who covers the cost for broken items: the mover or your home insurer?
The answer to this question is based on the following principle: when an item is covered by both specific insurance (i.e., the mover’s) and your (basic) home insurance, the specific insurance takes priority. However, some clarification is required.
On the front lines
When an item is damaged during a move, you should speak first to the moving company – provided that a contract which includes specific insurance has been signed. However, if the amount you’re claiming to repair or replace the object exceeds the coverage provided by the mover, your home insurance policy then comes into effect (if the cost of the damage is more than your deductible). Another situation: this basic home insurance may apply if the mover refuses to take responsibility for the reported problem.
In general, a professional moving company will assume responsibility for minor damage if its employees have packed the objects to be moved. However, the company may notify the client that it will assume no responsibility during the move; this can occur if the movers believe the packing to be of poor quality (for example, if objects are moving around in a box) or if they see a particular risk (for example, a mirror that is loose in its frame).
Most of the time, a moving company’s quote includes insurance based on the weight of the items to be moved. In Quebec, this coverage is approximately $2 per pound per article for a local move: a 50-pound table would therefore be covered for $100. The mover may be able to offer additional insurance that in theory provides extra protection in the following cases:
- The client wants greater overall coverage, for example to pay the full cost of replacing a damaged item.
- The owner requests special protection for an object of great value, such as an antique piece of furniture.
From the insurance companies’ point of view
As the Insurance Bureau of Canada states, “if your possessions are lost or damaged, you’ll be reimbursed under the moving company’s insurance policy.” It is therefore essential to get proof that the company you’ve hired has the insurance necessary to protect your property. You should also find out about the mover’s claims process in case something goes wrong.
Before moving day arrives, ask for copies of the company’s insurance contract and your moving contract. Many companies give this paperwork to the customer only on moving day, which is unfortunate for several reasons:
- Your mind will probably be elsewhere that day. You’ll have little time to examine the terms of the contract.
- The details of the insurance are usually on the other side of the contract, such as the amount of the deductible in case of damage and the list of exclusions.
- By moving day it is probably too late to change the insurance coverage if you are unhappy with it.
In order to avoid unpleasant surprises, it is important to tell your own home insurer that you are planning to move. As well, since there is a wide range of home insurance products, it’s a good idea to make sure you know what’s in your insurance plan… beforehand! In cases of a legal dispute with the mover, and if your insurance does not cover damage that occurred during the move, you can turn to the Small Claims Division of the Court of Quebec for a claim of up to $15,000.
Lastly, should you need to provide proof of any damage, it is wise to document everything (invoices, photos, etc.).
Our thanks to Francine Bouthillette of Déménagement Drummond, a CAA-Quebec Approved Residential Supplier, and Julie Bellemare of the Insurance Bureau of Canada for their contributions to this instalment of Tips & Tricks.