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Is the moving company liable for damage?

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During a house move, breakages are not unusual. But who is liable if damage occurs due to poorly secured furniture, careless handling, or accidentally? 

Moving companies are within their legal rights to exclude certain liabilities from an agreement and thereby reject responsibility for damaged goods in some situations. What you need to pay attention to in order to complete your move with as little damage as possible:

Move valuable items yourself 

Also move items yourself if they are of considerable financial or personal value, e.g. an expensive vase or a gift from a friend. This helps you avoid nasty surprises. If this is not possible, photograph the items and have them valued. Generally, it is recommended that all furniture and valuable items are photographed before the move. This enables you to supply proof of any damage incurred during the move. 

Damage detected after the move

Notify the moving firm immediately if you discover any damage during the move. You should only sign a work report or an acknowledgment that includes written acceptance of the damage by the moving firm. If the moving firm refuses to accept the damage, you should not directly pay the outstanding amount. 

Alternatively, you can agree to deduct the amount of damage – should this be accepted and quantified directly after the move is complete  – from the total charge and only pay the difference. Here too, a corresponding remark on the receipt is necessary. 

If the firm insists on full payment or becomes unfriendly, inform the police immediately. If no agreement can be reached on site, a proper list of defects will have to be drawn up. 

Damage must be reported by registered letter to the moving company no later than two to three days after the move. This is regardless of whether the damage has already been discovered during the move or afterwards. Include photographic evidence and a cost estimate with your letter.

Quotation and billing: flat-rate or cost-based?

In case of a flat-rate offer, the moving company should provide a detailed quotation (if necessary, following a visit). If the company does not visit your premises, the details you provide are definitive and should be truthful, or you will bear any additional costs. 

If the offer made is based on cost (hourly rate), you must pay the hours effectively worked – provided that the contractual agreements (e.g. the number of employees or the size of the trucks) were observed.

Good to know 

  • Moving companies with general commercial liability insurance are not obligated to report the damage to their insurer. However, should they be entrusted with the claim, you will have to submit a timely notification of the defects as well as the damage amount. 
  • Contracts or the General Insurance Conditions of moving companies often exclude liability for ordinary negligence, i.e. accidental damage. The liability for gross negligence or unlawful intent cannot be excluded, in accordance with the law. 
  • If there is damage, the causer of the damage is only liable for the present value of the object. The value of electrical devices, for example, is already lower after one year. In the event of damage, you will need to demonstrate the original cost of the object and when it was purchased (e.g. on the basis of the purchase receipt). If the items have already been deemed "worthless" due to depreciation, you will receive no compensation for them.
  • If you have legal protection insurance, your insurer will be happy to assist you in making your claim.

 

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