Who is responsible if my items get damaged during a move?

Before you grab a single box, get your belongings insured. Even better, find out who is responsible—and to what extent—if your items are damaged during a move.

Who is responsible if my items get damaged during a move?

What happens when you move and your stuff gets broken...

  • According to the government, you must first try to negotiate with the moving company you’re dealing with if you believe it's their fault. You can likely reach a mutual agreement if you have good insurance and a good argument.
  • If negotiation doesn’t work, keep a record of all the steps you’ve taken, and gather all the paperwork to prepare for the next steps, which may be a summons or heading to court.
  • Try to avoid going to court by seeking a mediator and going into arbitration.

But where do you go from there?

The mover’s responsibility

Usually, you will find all the liability and insurance coverage information in the moving contract.

  • However, you may find the norm for basic responsibility is limited to a value assigned to the item according to its weight. Usually, the amount is one to two dollars per pound. If your 50-pound table worth $2,000 gets damaged, you may only be able to claim $100.
  • Another clause may stipulate the mover is only liable for damage if they were the ones in charge of packing.

Read the details of the contract carefully before you sign on the dotted line.

Your responsibility

If you trust your household move to a professional moving company, they should offer you the option of purchasing additional coverage. Otherwise, it’s up to you to request it.

  • If no additional coverage is offered by the company, then it is your responsibility to protect your property and review your homeowner's insurance.

One way or another, you should contact your insurance company.

  • This will allow you to compare rates, and also to enquire about how much additional coverage you require (if any).
  • If you don’t intend to purchase additional insurance, transport your most fragile belongings yourself. This is recommended when dealing with all moving companies, unless the movers are specialized in transporting valuable goods.

What the Insurance Bureau of Canada says

The IBC states that the moving company must reimburse the customer first. However, the onus is on you to prove you have coverage through the mover’s insurance company.

  • To improve your chances of recovering the full value, you should have before and after pictures, as well as the original invoice and amount paid for the damaged item.

The difference between homeowner's insurance vs. moving company’s insurance

Be cautious here. Usually the moving company’s insurance will offer to reimburse the actual value of the item. This is a depreciated value and not the market value of a new item to replace it.

For example:
Take a washer and dryer set that you purchased new in 2000

  • If the appliances are damaged or lost, the mover's insurance will refund the current (lesser) value of the item, since they are over 10 years old.
  • In contrast, your homeowner's insurance will replace it with a new set.
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