By Alexander J.N. Karam, Esq.

Planning to move this summer? More Arizonans are falling victim to moving companies’ questionable practice of threatening “hostage loads,” which occurs when a company refuses to unload your belongings if you disagree over payment. This is called imposing a “carrier’s lien.”

A carrier’s lien is meant to help transporting companies secure payment by allowing them to hold goods being transported as collateral when a customer refuses to pay. However, a new Arizona law prohibits this behavior under certain circumstances.

The attorney general has received nearly 150 complaints in the last two years regarding hostage load situations, and the Better Business Bureau ranks moving companies at No. 15 on its list of industries with the most complaints. In some cases, a mover’s initial-quote inexplicably jumped upon arrival to the destination, leaving movers with the dilemma of paying artificially inflated prices or having their belongings wrongfully withheld.

With consumer dissatisfaction on the rise, the legislature was motivated to take action. House Bill 2145, signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, will prevent moving companies from enforcing a carrier’s lien against consumer household goods. Moving companies no longer have a security interest in the goods being moved, and disputes over charges must be handled after items are unloaded and delivered to the consumer. However, this law only applies to intra-state moves of consumer household goods. If it crosses the border, then federal law applies.

Consumers should always have the price terms stated in writing at the outset. If faced with a hostage load situation the best resolution is to call local law enforcement and contact an experienced attorney.

Alexander J.N. Karam is an attorney at Smith-Paknejad.