Inventory Sheets Legally Keep You From Losing Your Stuff on a Move. Here’s How to Use Them

Posted in: I'm Moving, Moving Checklists & Planning

Among the many pieces of paperwork that a full-service mover will ask you to sign is a piece of paper called a “Household Goods Descriptive Inventory”. It’s more commonly known as an Inventory Sheet, and it’s basically an itemized list of everything the movers are transporting for you, from your furniture to your boxes to every last golf club, garden tool and garbage can in the shed.

We know, you hardly have time to search for a coffee filter, let alone make a list of every single thing you own. But why is writing all that stuff down so important before the movers haul it away?

You Probably Want Your Stuff Back

On move day, before the rest of the crew starts carrying your stuff out the door, the lead person or someone else who knows the drill will be going around putting numbered stickers on everything and writing a description of each item on the corresponding numbered line on the “IS”. So if you make one, you’ll get a copy of that inventory sheet – or more likely several inventory sheets – and when your stuff is delivered you’ll check off each numbered item as it comes off the truck. Armed with your inventory sheets, you can make sure everything is there.

Here’s what happens on a move with completed paperwork.

Example #1: Your movers have emptied the truck, everything is moved in and accounted for according to the inventories. You and the mover both sign each IS as documentation that all items have been received.

Example #2: Once the movers have emptied the truck, you find that one item on your inventory sheets has not been checked off. You and your movers search high and low for the item (because you both want to find it!), but it is nowhere to be found. Near the bottom of the IS you will write very clearly which item is missing, then you and the mover both sign off on the paperwork. (Make sure to keep a copy!) This is your documentation for filing a claim for your missing item.

Inventory Sheets Also Keep Track of the Condition of Your Stuff

Nobody wants to end up with a scratched and dinged up dining room table. Likewise, your movers don’t want to be held responsible for any scratches and dings that were already in that table. A special column on the inventory sheet, where your movers can record any existing damage, serves as a safeguard for both of you.

Example #1: If your dining room table is all scratched up upon delivery, but those scratches are documented on the inventory sheet as already existing when the movers came to move you, you cannot hold your mover falsely accountable.

Example #2: If there is any discrepancy between the condition of your dining room table as recorded on the IS with the condition of that table when it gets delivered, you’ll have the legal evidence and documentation you need to get reimbursed for the damage. Describe clearly the new damage in the “Remarks/Exceptions” box, then take pictures of the damage as further proof. (These pictures can also help your moving company determine whether to repair or replace the item.)

It’s Important to Prepare Ahead of Your Move

It’s hardly practical to follow your mover around to witness every notation they make on every inventory sheet and to check every box, every piece of furniture and every loose item in your garage. Go ahead and try if you like, but I bet you’ll drive both yourself and your mover crazy.

Instead, be proactive before the move. On the day of your relocation, check your furniture, your appliances, your bookcases and your bicycle. The actual paper itself is pretty straight forward: Just plainly denote any significant scratches, gouges and dings. Then point them out to your inventory taker. Seeing how you are paying attention, they’ll be inclined to do more of the same.

On packing: If you’re doing your own packing, keep track of how many boxes you have. Number them as you label them with what is inside. Make a rough list of your boxes if you like, noting what size or kind each box is. Such a list may not amount to a legal document but you can use it to make sure your mover has the same number of boxes listed on their official inventory sheets.

Finally, familiarize yourself with a typical IS, including the most common abbreviations movers use when taking inventory:

  • PBO – a box that was packed by the owner, i.e., you
  • CP – a box that was packed by the mover, i.e., the carrier
  • MCU – Mechanical Condition Unknown, to prevent false claims by the customer that something “was working before I moved.”

For a good example, take a good look at this standard Household Goods Descriptive Inventory form:

The inventory sheet is your best (and perhaps only) friend if something gets lost or damaged. Make sure you are well-acquainted – both before and after your mover fills it out – before it’s finally time to sign off at the bottom.

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