Home movers have had four million of their possessions either lost, damaged or stolen in transit over the past 12 months.
Nearly a quarter of people said items did not make it to their new home in the same condition they left in, according to a new survey by Direct Line home insurance.
The average cost of repairing or replacing these items was nearly £700 for each homeowner, equating to a total of more than £1.3billion.
Moving day: Many home movers will hire a van or lorry and do their removal themselves to save on costs – but this does not mean their contents will necessarily be any safer
The South East saw the highest number of claims for lost or damaged possessions, accounting for roughly one in six claims.
Items of clothing were the most commonly lost, stolen or damaged possessions during moves, with over one in five home movers having experienced this.
This was matched by damage to large furniture items, with one fifth of home movers also faced with costly furniture repair bills.
‘The last 12 months has seen both a housing market freeze and frenzy due to the pandemic and subsequent stamp duty holiday,’ said Dan Simson, head of Direct Line Home Insurance.
‘As people had been rushing to get purchases completed before the deadline, we expect the next few weeks to be very busy for home moving.
‘This research shows that often it’s this last step which can result in unplanned and unpleasant additional costs, so we encourage movers to take care when in transit.’
How can home movers protect themselves?
In the last six months alone, Direct Line estimates that more than 2.2million people in the UK have moved home and on average are spending £682 towards moving their contents.
For some, removing third party involvement by hiring a van or lorry and doing it themselves might seem like the safest and cheapest solution.
Asking help from friends and family is a popular option according to Direct Line, with three in 10 people favouring this rather than paying for a professional removals firm.
But this also comes with its own risks – not to mention the time, stress and physical exertion required to move the contents of an entire home.
With tight sale completion deadlines to meet and large amounts of furniture to move, hiring a professional removals company is often the most practical option.
‘With a professional removals company, the work is carried out by fully trained and qualified personnel,’ said Ian Studd, director general at the British Association of Removers.
‘You can be assured they will have accounted for all necessary time limits, such as needing to vacate the property by a given deadline to comply with contractual requirements.
‘The combination of those two factors will of course deliver a more efficient and much safer outcome than would be the case should a DIY approach be taken.’
Britons have collectively had to pay out £5.1 billion to replace or repair items after moving home according to Direct Line Home Insurance.
The average amount spent on a full-service removal firm, which packs and reassembles furniture as well as moves it, is £1,000 according to Direct Line’s survey.
Choosing a reputable removals firm might be one way to safeguard your belongings.
There are hundreds if not thousands of unregulated removals firms and individuals operating across the country according to Studd, and many of them are advertising via social media platforms.
‘There is nothing to stop a person buying a transit van today and calling themselves a removals expert tomorrow – operating entirely in the black-market economy via Facebook for example,’ he said.
‘The stark figures revealed by this survey, I think, are testament to the fact that many consumers are perhaps going to the non-regulated sector of the removals market and putting themselves at enormous risk by doing so because the protections are not there if something goes wrong.’
One in five people say they have experienced damage to large furniture items, whilst 17 per cent say damage has been caused to glassware, crockery or electronics
Checking company websites and online reviews, using recommendations from friends and family and checking the company is registered are examples of the research a home mover should do.
‘Do your due diligence when selecting removals firms, said Studd. ‘It may take you a couple of hours, but if it ends up saving you hundreds or thousands of pounds in the end, then it will be worth it.
‘In a recent incident we saw a young couple who had contacted a so-called removals firm through Facebook.
‘The company turned up, loaded everything up and then cleared off never to be seen again – the entire contents of their house disappeared.
‘With the non-regulated sector, you’ll really be paying your money and taking a chance. It’s cash in hand and there are no protections.’
Check you have adequate insurance
It’s worth checking whether your contents insurance covers moving property or items temporarily away from the home.
Using a professional removals firm may be the difference between whether your contents insurance remains valid or not.
‘DIY moves aren’t typically covered by your contents insurance, and 50 per cent of people don’t use a removals company – so using a professional would be the best approach,’ said Kate Devine, insurance expert at MoneySuperMarket.
‘Also, if you decide to put your possessions into storage, then some policies may not cover this – for instance, if there happens to be a fire at the storage unit, your goods won’t be covered.’
A third of those surveyed admitted they didn’t factor in moving costs when working out their finances, and 12 per cent said they underestimated just how expensive it would be
It is also worth checking whether there are specific items that are excluded from the cover whilst in transit.
Bicycles, money, china, glass, earthenware or other fragile items are examples of possessions that might be excluded by home insurance providers.
‘We would advise all customers to remember to take out home insurance for their new property from the day they are due to get the keys, and to not cancel their policy on the old address until the sale is completed and the move has taken place,’ said Simson.
‘Some policies will provide cover for loss of, or damage to, contents whilst they are being moved to another permanent residence, as well as if the contents need to be stored for a certain amount of time – so it’s always worthwhile having all the necessary policies in place.’
If you are unable to rely on your contents insurance, then you may be able to rely on the insurance offered by a professional removals firm.
‘If the company has specified in writing, your belongings may be covered by Goods in Transit insurance,’ said Devine.
‘The majority of reputable companies should be fully insured, to give you peace of mind that you and your goods are protected through the journey, but it’s worth checking this before you commit.’
When using a removals firm, it might also be wise to pay them to package everything rather than doing it yourself.
‘This is essentially because the removal company and the insurance company do not know how well the effects have been packed, so there is generally little if any protection in place for pre-packed contents,’ explained Chris Jones, group operations director at removals firm Move Squad.
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.