When you receive your shipments of household goods, you should check that the safety seals placed on the shipping containers are still intact.

When you receive your shipments of household goods, you should check that the safety seals placed on the shipping containers are still intact. (Chris Fowler / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Knowing what you had and being able to prove it can be two different things — especially when it comes to filing a claim for goods damaged during a Department of Defense-sponsored move.

According to Herbert Elam, the director of Household Goods at the U.S. Fleet and Industrial Supply Center in Yokosuka, it is important for people to have good documentation of their personal property.

People should not only know what they own, “but the condition of their property and how that condition is indicated on a mover’s inventory,” Elam said.

During a household goods “pack out,” movers will indicate with set codes if an item is “scratched, dented, marred or damaged in just about any conceivable way,” he said.

Any differences between the packer’s assessment of the item’s condition and yours “is something you should pay attention to,” Elam said.

If something is lost or damaged during the move, the cited condition of the item will be used to help settle any claim, he explained.

The good news for people moving from Japan is that Japanese packers have a great reputation. Based on feedback reports, only about 10 percent of outbound goods suffer any reported damage or loss, officials say. But, Elam cautioned, in shipments arriving inbound from other locations, “it sometimes looks like the packers just threw stuff in a box.”

In addition to checking the condition listed as the items are packed, you also should maintain a household goods inventory.

“A home inventory is a listing of all your possessions that you have,” wrote Michael L. Chindamo, “to supply as evidence that your belongings existed in the first place … hence making it easier … to settle a claim.” Chindamo is a certified financial planner and accredited investment fiduciary and the founder of Family Financial Advocates

“Today, with video, audio and photography, there is no good reason not to have some sort of home inventory,” Chindamo wrote.

While knowing what you have, and what condition it is in is important to protect your household goods, Elam pointed out that it is also important to have someone watch your items as they are offloaded to check that the security seals are still on the shipping crates and at your residence as the items are unpacked.

“When it’s all said and done, each person is responsible for himself,” Elam said. “The title of the pamphlet we give to people who are getting ready to move really sums it up: ‘It’s Your Move.’ ”

Replacement costs are now covered

Having documentation of the inventory and condition of your household goods recently took on even greater importance with the implementation of the Full Replacement Value Act, which requires the Department of Defense to provide full replacement value insurance on every shipment of household goods.

In the past, household goods would be insured only at their estimated depreciated value. Claimants often would not receive enough in compensation to replace the items lost or damaged. Under the new rules, the delivery company is required to cover all replacement costs or estimates of repair.

— Chris Fowler

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