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11th March 1949, Page 23
11th March 1949
Page 23
Page 24
Page 23, 11th March 1949 — PROTECTION
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for the remover Some More Clauses that Should be Embodied in a Contract for the Removal and Storage of Furniture /N the previous articled dealt first with the precautions which should be taken by an operator in making an estimate for the removal of household furniture. I then passed on to deal with the principal clauses which should be embodied in the contract of removal. Some of these matters were not discussed, and I will now deal with them.

One important clause is that which puts the onus on the customer to see that nothing required to be removed is left behind. That means the customer should have a final look round the house before the removal men go. He is also expected to take care that no goods or fixtures are taken away in error, that is to say, he watches that the removal men do not take away anything in the house which does not belong to him. It is for the customer, too, to take such care as he can that any articles lett behind are properly protected. That is the responsibility which the removal man makes it quite clear he will not undertake.

Damage to Goods

Also of importance is the proviso that no article or substance likely to be dangerous to or damage other goods in the van, is carried. The customer is asked to arrange that any article likely to encourage vermin or other pests should be sent or given to the contractor for packing, removal or storage, and it is provided that no claim should be made against the haulage contractor or furniture remover for loss or damage restating from the presence of any such vermin or pest-attracting article.

There is another. risk be§ides that of claims for damage. This -is loss of goods either during their removal from the first house .to the van, in transit, or in transferring the/1'i again from the van to the premises where they are to be delivered. The furniture remover is, of. course„responsible for the misdoings of his own workmen, and if none but his men has'been engaged on the job he Will undoubtedly be held to be liable and will take that responsibility. If, however,,some other party be present, if, for example, workmen may be in either house during the course of the removal then the rembVer is entitled to put a limit to his responsibility in that respect. The wording of that part of the clause which deals with this matter' states that "When workmen other than those of the contractor are on the premises the contractor shall not be liable for any loss or failure to produce or damage however caused 'unless a detailed claim for any specific damage or loss be made in writing at the time of the delivery," Claims Must be Made At Once

Similarly the removal contractor will not accept any claim for damage to the property . which may be said to have occurred during the removal unless that damage be pointed out to the foreman at the time and confirmed within 48 hours.

Acovering clause in every contract states that if any dispute arises and if there be failure of the two parties to come to terms, the matter should be referred to arbitration. It is laid down that there should be two arbitrators, one appointed by each of the parties. The cost of this arbitration should be paid by either party at the discretion of the arbitrators.

Finally, there is the all-important consideration of payment. It is usually arranged that all charges shall he made on, or if required, before the delivery of the goods.

This provision may be regarded, as a matter of fact, in the nature of a saving clause and is not one which is usually enforced. It gives the removal contractor the• opportunity and right to insist upon collecting his proper charges before the goods are delivered if, in his knowledge of the parties conCerned, he deems it advisable, to take that course.

A matter of some moment, not a clause in the contract but perhaps as important As any of them, is the provision to ensure that the Customer is aware of the existence of thiS contract and has read it. For the contract to be binding it is necessary that the parties concerned must be fully aware of the details. Conditions of this kind are enforcible only in those circumstances and, in case of dispute, the first question that will be asked will be whether the claimant for damages was made aware of them.

The usual method of ensuring that the customer has such knowledge is to print the conditions on the back of the form of estimate and state on the form that the conditions are se printed. If the reader will refer to the form of estimate which was reproduced with the previous article, he will see that such notice is included.

Early in that article I stated that it is customary for furniture removers to undertake the dual responsibilities of removal and warehousing or storage. It is usual to set out a separate series of conditions relating to warehousing.

These conditions are concerned mainly with formalities governing the acceptance of goods; limitation of liability, especially in respect of damage arising from irresponsible packing; limitation of responsibility for damage from a variety of causes; payment of charges and precautions that the payment is made properly; steps to be taken in the event of no payment being made, and reference tt) liability for dangerous or explosive goods. Th-at is a summary. It is of interest now to go into some detail.

Trade Guarantees

Before doing so I would like to make comment ore such things as trade guarantees in general.' It is the eustorn of many producers of preprietary articles to sell them with a warranty tottering a limited period. Marty readers.ofl-this journal will have such written or printed guarantees in their 'possession relating to each of the vehicles bought, at least they will have such guarantees in connection with vehicles purchased new. The principal clause in all these runs like this "In the event of any defect being disclosed in fl. . months after disposal from the company's works'. . the company undertakes . . will exchange the defective-parts

free of charge ... etc."

That is the clause that most interests the buyer. It gives him a certain feeling of security, for if anything happens to the vehicle within that period he optimistically returns it and asks for the defect to be remedied free of 'charge, 'although he may not always get quite that. The clause that is most important in the eyes Of the maker, however, is one which, modestly enough,: appears last in the guarantee. It runs: "The warranty is in lietf•of all warranties and obligations whether expressed or implied by statute or otherwise." The operative words in that clause are the three "implied by statute." They, as a matter of fact, give the game away, and to those who can appreciate their meaning, disclose that the warranty instead of being, as it is designed to appear, a safeguard to the buyer as he fondly imagines, is really a shield for the manufacturer to protect him from unlimited claims which might otherwise be made upon him under the Sale of Goods Act.

So, the conditions under which the haulier stores furniture must be drafted to preserve him from extravagant claims under Common Law.

The principal clauses in such a' contract, safeguarding clauses I call them, are three in number. Two of them will immediately be recognized as similar in their nature to those quoted in reference to furniture removal.

The first limits to £10 the liability on any one article, suite or package unless the value has been previously declared in writing and insurance paid thereon or agreed to be paid. In the next the warehouseman declines responsibility for Joss of, or damage to, any article contained in drawer s or any, package or goods, not packed by the contractor's own erkitoyeas. That is •so obviously a wise provision that it R11 hardly needs discussion. It will be appreciated that if there be a case of goods packed by the customer the contractor can have no .knowledge whatever of what is in the case, let alone the state in which the contents were at the time they were packed. It would be absurd to expect him to take any responsibility.

The next clause is something more specifically applicable to the warehousing department of the furniture remover's business. In it he will make it clear that he will not accept the responsibility for loss or damage by moth, rust or damp, fire, aircraft or act of God, civil commotion, invasion, war or explosion, or deficiency in articles of a perishable nature. In the same clause it is agreed that insurance for fire risk will, on request, be effected in connection with any property which is warehoused, but that in such circumstances the premium must be paid by the customer.

Furniture removers have told me that the biggest enemy is moth, and although reputable operators take comprehensive precautions to guard against this insect, there is as yet no absolute safeguard. It is therefore impossible for the warehouseman to accept responsibility for damage which may accrue from this cause.

The remainder of the provisions which should be included in the contract relate to the conditions under which goods are accepted for storage, The depositor is required to furnish an address to which communications relating to the goods can be directed, and to register his signature at the warehouseman's office. The latter is for mutual protection. It guards the customer against some unauthorized person giving authority for the removal of his goods. It protects the warehouseman from the risk of claims for loss of goods removed under such false pretences.

It is usually provided that the depositor should prepare in duplicate an inventory of the goods to be warehoused and supply a copy to the warehouseman. If a customer prefers not to undertake this task, there is a clause which makes it a condition that the warehouseman will make and charge for the inventory, and forward a copy to the last registered address of the depositor. It is further stipulated that the inventory shall be assumed correct unless disputed within three days.

Reservations in Storage.

Next comes a clause which makes reservations as to the class of goods which the warehouseman. will accept for storage. The object is to avoid risk of contamination or damage as the result of the effect of a particular class of goods on general furniture and effects. For example, no goods of a dangerous or explosive nature would be accepted. If such articles be sent they will be removed and destroyed or otherwise disposed of at the discretion of the contractor.

Provision for access to stored goods is another important matter. As a rule the customer thinks he has a right to examine the goods when he chooses, but the contractor does not feel that he should allow access to his warehouse at all times.

Usually, the clause provides for "reasonable access" and is worded to the effect that the depositor can inspect the goods by appointment. If it be necessary to open them up for inspection a small charge can be made. Like many other clauses this is a safeguard. The warehouseman is usually reasonable and rarely makes such a charge. Another point in this Connection is that customer's will if required, be supplied with labels printed "'keep forward." These are affixed to packages likely to be required while the goods are in storage.

A further stipulation is that the customer must give at least three days' notice of the removal of goods from the warehouse, except during the months of March, June and September (quarter days), when a week's notice is required. No property will be delivered without an order signed by the depositor, and then not until all charges have been paid.

Incidentally, the furniture remover and warehouseman expects that if goods are to be removed he will be given the job. That is not a stipulation and there is nothing to prevent the customer engaging any remover he prefers. Usually he will find that if he goes to a strange contractor the latter will prefer to contact the warehouseman who has the goods, to make sure that the latter is agreeable and that there shall be no breakage of amicable relations between the two professionals.

Services Should be Defined

To avoid disputes as regards the services covered by warehousemen and so that there shall he no misunderstanding, a definition of these services should be included as one of the conditions of the contract. It is usual to stipulate that charges for rent or storage exclude the cost of removing, packaging, packing away or taking out of storage. That is to say, the customer must pay for the conveyance of the goods and for the time and labour involved in their storage within the warehouse. Moreover, the charge for receiving or delivering will be made to customers who may convey their own goods to or from the depository.

The contractor must also make some provision to safeguard himself against trouble in obtaining proper payment, and it is usual to include a definite clause to the effect that all properties are received and held subject to a general lien . for moneys due. Further, if the rent or other charges due in respect of any property are in arrears for a period longer than a year, it shall be in order, after 14 days' appropriate notice has been given to the owner (addressed to his lastknown place of abode, or in the event of no address being known, 14 days' notice by advertis6ment in a public newspaper), to examine and open the whole of the property and to sell it at a public auction towards payment of the accnied charges.

I should like to refer to a letter which appeared in a London paper, from a reader who gad sUddenly discovered that, when having his furniture removed, he was asked to sign a contract. In that contract, he said, there is an extraordinary amount of tiny printing which would take a long time to read. "It imposes a lot of conditions which would make a lot of trouble for the customer when he wants his goods back again. The best thing is not to sign such a form of agreement."

The matter was immediately taken up by Mr. E. A. Harris, Secretary of the National Association of Furniture Warehousemen and Removers, and if I publish that letter it will serve perhaps better than anything in lieu of the recommendations with which I intended to conclude this article, that furniture removers and warehousemen should join that ■ Association. He wrote to the effect that "Members of his Association for many years have made use of a standard contract form which a customer is asked to sign when his furniture is removed into store. The value of goods to be stored in a depository is often great and for the nominal price quoted the removal contractor cannot be expected to accept unlimited liablity. The contract form contains safeguards for both the customer and the contractor."


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