The house cleaning industry is full of people who are not trustworthy. Anyone with a mop and bucket can be a house cleaner (some don’t even have that) and anyone with $500 and a website can be a referral company. Sometimes, it is hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys.
We want to arm you with the information you need to uncover the warning signs and make the right decision. Whether you are evaluating independent maids, house cleaning companies or referral services you need to know this insider information.
To help, we have created a list of the 10 biggest warning signs you should watch out for when hiring a house cleaning service. If you are taking bids, you can use this as a guide to weigh your options. A lower bid may seem appealing but check for the warning signs before you decide. You are making a decision that may affect the safety of your family and the security of your home and its possessions.
House Cleaning Warning #10:
This is the first step any business should take and your best indication that there is a problem. If a house cleaner starts with the premise that they will operate their business “under the radar,” avoiding taxes and hoping to evade detection from the IRS; that is a warning sign. Honest people do business honestly. Criminals knowingly break the law. If your cleaner knows she should register her business and pay taxes and doesn’t she is a criminal – plain and simple.
If you love your current house cleaner in Pennsylvania, help her get legal by sending her to Pennsylvania Open For Business online registration.
If you are a registered independent house cleaner or business in the State of Pennsylvania, you are required to charge and submit sales tax for cleaning services. If this is not happening your cleaner or cleaning company is breaking the law. They need a sales tax license number issued by the State. This is a legal requirement. In Pennsylvania, this can be done at the Department of Revenue.
What if the house cleaner damages your home? What if something is stolen or someone slips on an incorrectly cleaned floor? How will you recoup your losses?
It is less than $500 a year for a credit worthy house cleaner to acquire 1 years’ worth of liability insurance for themselves. The bonding would be another $200-$500 depending on the amount. The total cost is less than $1,000 to protect themselves from lawsuits and ensure your family is protected in the event of injury, damage or theft. Why would you trust any house cleaner who cannot or will not make this minimal investment? Remember, the $1,000 doesn’t just protect you – it also protects all of the cleaner’s other clients and the cleaner themselves. Insurance and bonding are a must have for any Pittsburgh house cleaning company that plans to stand behind their work.
You cannot spot a criminal like you think you can. Sure, you can get a gut feeling and weed out the obvious cases; but the best criminals are likable people who you would never think were dishonest. In fact, I just got scammed by a Beaver County contractor because I liked him and ignored the warning signs thinking our relationship would carry the day . . . I was dead wrong.
Even if your house cleaner is trustworthy, what about her boyfriend or son or cleaning partner? What if she has or develops a substance abuse problem? Smart homeowners don’t rely on their gut feelings, instead, they require photo identification and background checks for any service provider that enters their home.
If your house cleaning company does not willingly provide it, we suggest you run a criminal record check on all house cleaners they send to your home. If you are in Pennsylvania you can run a Criminal Record Check in the PA Portal. It only costs $10 per person so it is a cheap way to be safe. If you have children in the home, you should cross-reference your cleaner’s name for free on PA Megan’s Law website. and to be double sure you can also run a PA Child Abuse Clearance. All of these are well worth the small investment if you consider your children and all the possessions you have in your home.
To be extra safe, you can even run a national criminal background check to identify issues that may have happened anywhere in the United States. Unfortunately, there is no national criminal record database that can access all state and local records so this is not without its blind spots but is much stronger than just running your particular state.
Yes, we understand some clients want to purchase cleaning supplies for the house cleaner for a variety of reasons but your house cleaner should still have their own supplies on hand. A basic house cleaning starter set can be purchased for under a $100 including basic chemicals, cheap vacuum, and cheap rags. In contrast, a professional house cleaning company should have a vacuum that costs hundreds of dollars with HEPA filtration, microfiber rags, magic erasers and all the supplies needed to do a great job. To stock a professional cleaner, it easily costs a company over $500 per maid covering vacuum, telescoping dusters, chemicals and the specialty items needed to address the unique features of your Pittsburgh home safely and properly.
Accidents happen. Don’t be on the hook for lost wages, medical bills and pain, and suffering. Insist that your house cleaner and all service providers that come into your home have workers’ compensation insurance. TIP: Your homeowners may not cover injury or damage caused or sustained by an uninsured independent contractor(s). You should discuss this with your insurance agent in advance if you choose to hire a cleaner who does not have workers’ compensation insurance.
Some independent house cleaners and house cleaning referral services may tell you that since the house cleaner is the owner of the business they are not required to have workers’ compensation insurance. Without splitting legal hairs, I ask you this: If someone without workers’ compensation insurance gets hurt in your home and cannot work, how will their family continue to pay their bills?
Workers’ compensation insurance is designed for this very thing. If this is not available, the desperate family may be left with no options but to sue the unlucky homeowner in hopes of a keeping food on the table. In some of the worst cases, the injury is not real or was not actually sustained while cleaning your home. Although it is rather rare, when this does happen it can just as easily happen to the really nice family who has developed a relationship with their cleaner, as it can to the working family who is never home.
The big problem is it is very difficult to prove that a house cleaner did not sustain an injury while cleaning your home. If there is no workers’ compensation insurance you better pray no one gets hurt. If they do, consider your assets fair game even if a house cleaning company or referral service told you they did not need workers’ compensation insurance. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. And good luck getting that referral service to help in a worst case scenario like this. Referral services are a little more than lead sellers that connect you with an independent sub-contractor who will most likely not have workers’ compensation insurance.
Yes, your green cleaner may be a rookie all-star but the odds are much higher that they will be a bust. That is why the Yellow Pages phone book requires house cleaners to pay for their add in full before it can be printed (almost every other business can pay monthly.) The Yellow Pages knows most house cleaners (significantly higher than other businesses) will fail in the first year. After all, what is the barrier of entry to become a house cleaner? What is stopping a criminal from becoming a maid or forming cleaning company or referral service? The truth is nothing so be careful.
Does the offer sound too good to be true? Underbidding on the estimate then raising the price during or after the cleaning is a common practice in the industry even among established businesses. Don’t let a low price lull you into a bad deal. The low price will usually come from a bidder with tons of warning signs. Just remember, compare the low price with the number of warning signs so you don’t overlook serious hidden liability.
Besides, if you choose the lowest price and you are not satisfied you basically wasted all your money since you will now need to repeat the cleaning and incur substantially higher costs than paying a little more the first time and having it done right.
This is the new shortcut in the house cleaning industry. Instead of hiring, training and paying taxes these companies veil the fact that they are just referring your work to independent subcontractors. These subcontractors rarely have valid insurance, bonding or worker’s compensation and the referral company rarely passes the IRS test for qualified subcontractors so it is usually operating in violation of the law. There are 3 that we know of currently operating in Allegheny, Beaver & Butler County.
Worse, the company with the snazzy website is not responsible for the cleaning outcome or issues that may arise. If a problem happens they pass it on to the cleaner, after all, the cleaner is an independent contractor and the company is nothing more legally than an advertising agency. For more information about this illegal business, practice read about the demise of multi-million-dollar company Homejoy.com and other lawsuits that challenge the subcontractor relationship in the house cleaning industry.
Don’t be fooled, If it is a legal sub-contractor relationship the company cannot train its cleaners. The company cannot tell any cleaner how to do the work or when to do the work or what products to use. If your referral company is legally categorizing its maids as subcontractors, then they will have little to no control over the cleaners or the cleaning outcome.
If subcontracting the work gave the customer the same level of protection, then these companies would not try to conceal this fact and appear like a legitimate house cleaning services. To protect against the referral service, make sure the company you do business with is actually employing the maids as employees. If this is true, double check the company provides liability insurance, bonding, and workers’ compensation insurance and intends to be accountable and stand behind the cleaning outcome and ensure the safety of all involved.
Unfortunately, if you grew up in America, it is very likely you watched the Brady Bunch on television. Millions of Americans have been subconsciously influenced by this show’s character Alice, the housekeeper. I admit, she was awesome and I want her too. The thought of one person who will devote their life to you and your family is very enticing. However, it is in chasing the illusion of Alice that so many homeowners make poor hiring decisions.
We admit it is possible to find an Alice. . . but our experience has taught us it is highly unlikely. Perhaps, it is better to sacrifice the desire for a personal relationship and focus instead on hiring qualified maids that perform great cleanings and have NO WARNING SIGNS. Let’s leave it at that. We have all seen how quickly a friend can turn their back on us – imagine how fast a cleaner will do it if she injures herself in your home and can’t work?
When you start hiring for personality, you often ignore the warning signs and complicate the relationship. Focus on the warning signs and quit chasing Alice . . . she doesn’t exist.
Disclaimer: This information is meant for general educational purposes. It is not legal or business advice. Hiring a private house cleaner may create an employee/employer relationship in Pennsylvania. You should consult an appropriate expert to discuss the details of your situation. For a pre-screened house cleaning service with none of the above warning signs check out this excellent house cleaning company.