Are you a bargain shopper? Do you thrive on getting the lowest prices for everything? Are you signed up for every single group coupon offer? Is there anything you purchase that shouldn’t be bought at bottom dollar?
Some things are so important to us that we are willing to pay for the best we can get. When we make purchases that involve our children, our own well-being, and our own privacy, we typically do not skimp. So, what does it mean when you pay bottom dollar for a cleaning (or maid) service? And why should you care? They’re just cleaners, right? It’s not “rocket science”…
Let’s take a look at why compromising on price with a maid service is a bad option.
For this article we are going to look at two types of cleaning businesses: those that operate within the law and those that do not. And, reality check, without doing your homework, you may not know them apart.
When you hire a cleaning service you must check their background, how they operate, who they hire, and how they screen employees. Checking an online rating site should never be your only tool in evaluating a service.
A well-established company is one that operates within the law and has many processes in place that protect you and their business. They should be able (and probably would love the chance) to share their business story, hiring and training methods, products they use, services they offer, and the insurances they carry. They will give you a good understanding of their methods and how they operate. A well-established company works on common business etiquette and practices.
A “Trunk Slammer” is an independent individual who works primarily on their own and most often without the benefit of a proper business structure. They’ll tell you how long they’ve been cleaning (years and years) and what a good job they do. When broached about insurance they’ll say, of course, they have insurance. And, they may even tout that they are so much cheaper than others and do a better job. To be sure, there are perfectly legal and thriving independent cleaners out there but they will operate just as an established company and be able to provide the proper information.
Both sound okay at first blush, but take a deeper look. Whenever you are interviewing a prospective service to come on to your private property and in your private space, you should do a couple of things.
1) Ask to have the insurance company(s) send a certificate of insurance. A service may use more than one insurance carrier so make sure you get named on all. You want to see both business liability and worker’s compensation coverages. If you don’t, then call the service and request both. If you receive a copy or a version that does not have your name and address on it (or is not directly from the insurance agent), it should be deemed not accurate. (After all, a service could cancel that policy the day after you get their copied version and have no insurance whatsoever.) This is a hassle for services and they may push back but stand your ground. A reputable service will comply. A less-than-reputable service will not.
It is crucial that the company you hire has the proper insurances (and licenses) to do the work on/in your property. It is also equally crucial that the individuals they send to your property are properly documented.
2) Ask if I-9s have been filed on all employees. The I-9 (and most states have their own version as well) is a federal form that requires two forms of identification to be documented to ensure the applicant has the legal right to work in the United States. Also, ask if thorough background investigations have been performed on applicants. Most companies do background investigations as cheaply as possible and they are often very basic. Ask the service if they do drug testing and if they have had any incidences of theft. If they have, be sure to have them tell you how they dealt with the theft. Was there prosecution? What happened to the employee? You’ll get a good sense of how honest the service is with these questions. Don’t automatically close off the conversation if the service has had theft occur. This does happen even with good services. What is crucial is how they handled it.
If you don’t choose to follow these suggestions and hire an independent cleaner here are some of the risks. (These are also risks for a company too, but more prevalent with the “trunk slammers”.)
Why are you at risk? Many “independent” maids or contractors are considered your employee based on how much control you have over what they do. If an independent cleaner works in your home using your equipment and following your directions, that cleaner may be determined your employee.
If an accident in your home occurs with the maid, depending on where you live, you may be liable for more than just the maid’s medical expenses. Some states even fine you for being an employer and not paying for workers compensation insurance. And, they are usually hefty fines. Are you prepared for that? And, don’t fall into the trap of thinking your homeowner’s insurance will cover it – it won’t.
If there is theft or damage in your home, you may find out too late that there is no coverage or recourse (and always, ALWAYS report theft to the local police). Bonding will only pay in the case of a prosecuted crime (found guilty). Anything less and you’re on your own. Now, is that worth that discount you received? Or that bottom-dollar price?
You may find yourself at even further risk if the contractor in your home is unscrupulous and knows that you are not aware of the law. You are at a dis-advantage!
So remember, if the price is bottom dollar or “too good to be true”, it most likely isn’t true or good for you. If you hire an independent cleaner for $10-12 per hour, chances are VERY good that the proper taxes may not be paid and the proper insurances are not carried. These things cost reputable companies and that is why they charge more. Don’t fall into bargain shopping on this one – it’s not worth it.