Moving During the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19): What to Know
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has put a stop to the normal routines of everyday life both in the U.S. and abroad. And while social distancing is the course of action to take until told otherwise, moves aren’t always something that can wait. How does moving during a pandemic work though, and more importantly—are moving services even still available?
Below, we’ll outline some of the biggest questions about moving during the pandemic in an effort to help the process be as stress free as possible. We’ll also share some of the tips provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and our friends at the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) on how to keep yourself and others safe during your relocation.
What is COVID-19?
According to the World Health Organization, “COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.”
COVID-19 is not the first coronavirus, but rather a new strain in an existing group of coronaviruses that can circulate among both animals and humans. It is highly contagious and spreads from person-to-person through droplets from the nose or mouth, which is why social distancing measures are so important. As of the date of publication, there have been more than 5,996,000 cases and more than 183,000 deaths of COVID-19 in the United States.
What is Social Distancing?
Social distancing, also referred to as “physical distancing,” is one of the best defenses that we have against the spread of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines proper social distancing measures as requiring that you:
- Stay six feet away from other people, aside from those who you live with
- Do not gather in groups
- Avoid mass gatherings and crowded areas
Limiting close contact with those outside of your immediate household mitigates the risk of coming into contact with COVID-19 droplets. These measures are particularly important in light of the fact that many carriers of COVID-19 are asymptomatic, meaning that they are carrying—and potentially spreading—the virus without awareness that they have it.
Is Moving Essential?
For many people, a moving date is not flexible. If you have a lease ending or if you previously sold or purchased a home with an upcoming closing date, it’s important that you have access to the critical services that can allow you to relocate. While cities and states across the country have ordered the temporary closure of “non-essential” businesses, moving is generally considered essential and moving service providers are currently operating in all states.
If you do have flexibility in your moving date, consider waiting—especially if you’re in a high-risk group. If you can’t postpone your move but are concerned about exposure, an option might be to move with your own vehicle or a rental truck, provided you’ll be able to lift and carry all of your belongings.
Note that the closure of non-essential businesses does vary by state, or sometimes even county or city. It’s possible that the orders are different in your locality, so it’s important to do your research. However, in states where lock-down orders have been put in place, moving companies are so far considered to be essential, and are still in operation.
Are Moving Services Still Available?
At this point, yes. We have not seen any notable shutdowns of service among major moving companies. That being said, decisions about closures may be left to individual franchise owners. If you have already scheduled your move and haven’t heard anything, assume that your moving company is still providing services unless told otherwise, but still call just to confirm.
If you’re worried about moving during an pandemic for a move that is still upcoming and for which you haven’t scheduled movers, it’s hard to say what will and will not be available in the months to come. For now, continue to do research on companies and ask directly what steps are being taken when you reach out.
What has changed at this point is largely going to be related to the customer experience itself, including frequent hand washing among movers and no physical contact between movers and clients.
What About Storage Services?
Same as moving companies, major storage companies continue to run operations. What you might be able to expect however is limited hours of accessibility and/or a reduction in the amount of customers who are able to access their units at any one time. Storage companies should also be following proper hygiene practices, including sanitization of access pads and the requisite six feet or more of space between customer and customer and customer and employee.
Can I Still Rent a Moving Truck?
Major rental truck companies continue to be in service, as they are considered essential for transportation and personal mobility needs. Again, what may be different is the experience, since companies like Enterprise and U-Haul have put into place their own protocols for physical distancing. This means that your pick-up and drop-off location may not be at the branch office, and that you’ll have to make your reservation online or over the phone instead of in person.
Should I Move During COVID-19?
Sometimes a move is unavoidable. However, if you have any flexibility in your moving date, you are better off waiting to relocate until social distancing measures have been lifted. If you do not have flexibility, the next best thing that you can do is to work closely with your moving provider to learn what they are doing—and what you should do—to ensure the safest move possible.
Health and safety are always a top priority. If you are in a high-risk group, including those with pre-existing conditions like diabetes and asthma or those who are over the age of 60, consider postponing your move if you can or finding an alternate means of moving, such as using your own vehicle or renting a moving truck.
Does Someone Have To Come Into My Home to Provide a Moving Quote?
No. Moving companies are now offering virtual surveys instead of at-home surveys to provide you with a price estimate for your move.
I Have An Upcoming Move, Is It Still Happening?
If you have an upcoming move scheduled assume that it is still happening unless you have heard otherwise from your moving company. That being said, it is still a good idea to call and confirm. Get in touch with your moving provider as soon as possible to verify the status of your move and find out what precautions they will be taking.
Moving company cancelled but you still need to relocate at a set date? Reach out to other companies to check availability, or look into renting a moving truck and doing your move on your own.
What Is My Moving Company’s COVID-19 Policy?
Go to your moving service provider’s website to view their COVID-19 policy, or contact them directly. In most cases, essential businesses like moving companies are able to set their own practices for operating under the pandemic, however you will almost certainly see protocols put into place around physical distancing and sanitization. If you have a question or concern about your moving company’s COVID-19 policy, contact your provider to discuss.
What If I Want to Cancel My Move?
If you need to cancel a move due to COVID-19, contact your moving provider directly. Most moving contracts are non-binding, which means that you can cancel without financial penalty up to a set period of time prior to your service. If you provided a deposit, you’ll have to look at your contract to see whether or not you can expect it to be returned to you. Note that even if your deposit was non-refundable, there is a chance that your moving company will return it to you anyway due to the unique circumstances of COVID-19.
I’m Not Feeling Well, What Should I Do?
The first thing that you should do in regards to your move is notify your moving company. It’s crucial that your moving provider knows about the potential risk for their workforce so that they can adjust the sanitization and social distancing measures they have already put in force.
Your health and safety as well as the health and safety of your movers are the top priority. Transparency is very important for keeping everybody safe, and in many cases, your movers will still work with you. In addition to letting them know if you suspect the illness among yourself or a family member (or have a diagnosis), also let them know if you are isolating due to exposure, since the same risk mitigating steps should be taken.
Wear a mask and gloves while packing, and sanitize any items your movers will be handling directly (you can use standard antibacterial wipes or sprays, or make a homemade bleach solution). Try to have all packing done at least 24 hours prior to when your movers will be arriving, and store boxes in a closed room. When your movers arrive, stay as far away as possible, and continue wearing your mask and gloves.
What If I’m Moving By Myself?
The process of a DIY move looks pretty much the same now as it did before COVID-19, minus the ability to have a couple friends come over and lend a hand in exchange for pizza. Some additional things that you will want to do however include keeping hand sanitizer, soap, and paper towels accessible at all times, we well as making a detailed plan for both your departure and arrival.
If you rent, talk to your current landlord about how you can safely drop off keys and collect your security deposit, and talk to your new landlord about the process for a safe move in. Putting in a blueprint of steps ahead of time will help you maintain social distancing during your DIY move and answer any questions you might have about the process.
What Are Moving Companies Doing Differently?
Moving companies are taking the coronavirus pandemic very seriously. To that end, companies across the country have put into place protocols designed to protect their employees and their customers. These include:
- Following federal and local guidelines around social distancing and sanitization
- Conducting virtual surveys instead of in-home surveys to provide estimates
- Frequently sanitizing trucks and equipment
- Practicing social distancing with customers and, as much as possible, among moving teams
- Wearing masks and gloves
- Keeping trucks stocked with hand sanitizer
All of these practices help ensure that moving services can remain available in a safe way. A virtual move estimate for example provides you with the same quote you’d expect any time you hire movers without the need to have someone enter your home.
How to Prepare For Your Move
We talk often about how important it is to have a plan for your move, and that goes double for a move during the coronavirus. You have to remain one step ahead to ensure that you have the right supplies (since you can’t be running back and forth to the store), and to ensure that you leave yourself enough time to pack and get ready for your movers.
To prepare for a move amidst COVID-19, be sure to keep the following steps in mind:
Contact your movers
This is important to confirm your reservation and discuss best practices for moving day. Moving companies are putting in lots of safeguards to help protect their clients, and it helps to be on the same page as them in terms of what is expected.
Buy all of your supplies in one go
You’re going to want to get it right with just one trip to the store, so make sure you know exactly what you’re going to need for your move. Use a packing calculator to get an estimate of what you’ll need based on the number of rooms and people in your house. And when in doubt, buy extra.
Clean as you pack
When is the last time that switch on your bedside lamp or the outside of your crock pot has been cleaned? Use this opportunity to sanitize your belongings, wiping items down with disinfectant. If you don’t have any, you can make one with a solution of one tablespoon bleach to one gallon water.
Finish packing at least 24 hours before the movers arrive
Coronavirus can last a long time on surfaces, including up to 24 hours on cardboard boxes. Your movers will be wearing gloves, but for everyone’s safety you should still have your boxes packed and sitting untouched at least a day before your movers arrive.
Important Tips for Moving During the Coronavirus Pandemic
If you’re not sure about protocols for moving during the coronavirus lockdown, you are certainly not alone. This is unprecedented territory that necessitates keeping up to date with recommendations provided by WHO and the CDC. In the meantime, the AMSA has provided some helpful tips for making your move go as smoothly as it can during the pandemic. Here are some of the key takeaways.
- Let your mover know right away if you or anyone in your family is experiencing coronavirus symptoms. Transparency is very important for keeping everybody safe. And in many cases, your movers will still work with you, but they will put additional protocols into place to protect their workers. In addition to letting them know if you suspect the illness among yourself or a family member (or have a diagnosis), also let them know if you are isolating due to exposure, since the same risk mitigating steps should be taken.
- Provide hygiene products for your movers. To aid your movers in following necessary hygiene practices, be sure to leave out products that they can use while they transport your items to and from the moving truck. That includes soap and paper towels by the sink, and hand sanitizer by the door that they’ll be entering and exiting through. If you’re concerned about having enough supplies, let your moving company know so they can be sure to bring them along for use during the move.
- Don’t use free or recycled moving boxes. The coronavirus can live on cardboard for as long as 24 hours, so now is not the time to be picking up free moving supplies from places that are recycling them. Boxes that you already have in your home are fine, but if you need any extras then you’ll need to go to the store and buy them new (even better if you can then purchase them through self-checkout).
- If you’re in a high-risk group, cancel your move if possible. Individuals over 60 and those with pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular conditions should reconsider moving if at all possible. No move is worth risking your life, so if you have any flexibility in when (or if) your move happens, push it back until you can more safely relocate.
- If you have to cancel your moving services, do so earlier rather than later. The sooner you can let your movers know that you no longer need their services, the better. If you’re not officially cancelling your move yet but do want to know what the procedure will be in the event that you have to, that’s another reason to contact your movers directly and go over the details.
- If traveling for your move, plan accordingly. Need to book flights or hotels for your move? Make refundable reservations and/or only work with companies that offer free cancellations. Ask about cancellation policies before you book so that you don’t end up wasting money later on.
Being smart when moving during the pandemic requires that you follow all of the standard pandemic rules and apply them to your move. Social distancing and sanitization requirements need to be upheld while moving.
One silver lining is that social distancing means that you might have more time to devote to organizing your home prior to your move and getting rid of the things you no longer want or need. If you plan on donating items like clothing, linens, furniture, shelf stable non-perishables, etc., call the place that you would like to donate to ahead of time and see what their policies are. While many people are in need during this time, it’s likely not going be quite as easy as just driving to your nearest donation center and dropping stuff of (but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it).
Please stay safe during your move. We will be updating the site with new moving regulations or changes to the industry as they happen, so check back if you have additional questions about what to expect.