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3 Questions to Ask When Hiring a House Cleaner

Hiring someone to come into your home is a big decision. Here are Domestic CEO’s 3 expert questions you must ask before you make this important decision. 

By
Amanda Thomas,
September 27, 2012
Episode #030

3 Questions to Ask When Hiring a House Cleaner

So you’ve made the decision to hire a house cleaner. This is often a busy professional’s first step into the world of delegating household chores. Having someone else focus on the dusting and vacuuming has the potential to open up hours of extra time for you each week. It can allow you to spend more time with your family and friends, or focus more on your climb up the corporate ladder. Whatever your reason, congratulations on investing in yourself!

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Once you make the decision to bring in help, the next step is the interview and hiring process. From my experience, this part is confusing for most homeowners. As the owner of Moxie Girl Household Assistants, I often find myself coaching people through the process of picking a house cleaner. No matter who you are, or where you live, here are the 3 most important questions to ask when you are hiring someone to clean your home:

Question #1: Are You Licensed, Bonded, and Insured?

In my experience, many people ask this question, but have no idea why. Licensing in the housecleaning industry simply means that the person or business is licensed with the state as a business. This label doesn’t provide you with any legal protection, but it can give you a sense of how committed the person is to the idea of cleaning your home. Anyone can start cleaning houses by posting a few ads online or in the classifieds. But if they invest the time and money to license their business, there is a greater chance that they are committed to sticking with it, and not suddenly disappearing when they get tired of scrubbing your bathroom.

Bonding is very important when you bring someone into your home. Why? Because it is a type of insurance that businesses buy in case their employees steal something from you. If a house cleaning company is bonded, and an employee takes more than the trash out of your house, the company can file a claim with their bonding insurance to have the item replaced. If they don’t have this insurance, and the business can’t afford to replace the missing item, you may be out of luck.

Most consumers already understand and want the person coming in to clean their home to have a general liability insurance policy. They want to know that if/when something is broken, the business has the insurance coverage to replace it. The other, more important insurance (in my opinion at least) is worker’s compensation. If the person coming in to clean your home is not covered by worker’s comp, you as the homeowner or renter are legally responsible for any injury that happens in your home.

So, if the lady mopping your floors slips on the wet tile and breaks her leg, she can legally require you to pay for her hospital bills. Oh, and what if that guy climbing on the ladder to clean your chandelier falls off? You can be held responsible for his ambulance ride, ER visit, and week in the hospital. So while it’s nice to know that liability insurance will cover you in case the cleaning person spills Windex on your laptop or bleach onto your rare orchid, make sure you ask about worker’s comp insurance when hiring a housecleaning company to come into your home. It could help you avoid a major headache.

Also, please keep in mind that these descriptions are a general overview of what these insurance policies can do. Make sure to talk with your insurance agent to find out if there are any specific requirements in your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy that you need to abide by, especially if you are considering hiring an independent contractor.

Question #2: How Many People Will Come Into My Home?

There is no correct answer to this question. Different businesses bring in different numbers of people for each job. Here are the pros and cons for you to consider when deciding if you want one person or multiple people to come clean your home.

The biggest advantage of having one person come on each visit is trust. You can get to know the person easier because he or she will be at your house consistently. Plus, if something disappears or gets broken, you know who is accountable. One person is also a great option if you work from home because the cleaner can quietly work around you. Another positive is that the work gets done more efficiently because there is no chance for team members to waste time talking or inadvertently doing the same work twice. The obvious downside of having one person do the job is that it will take longer. If you prefer to not have someone in your house for hours at a time, you may want to consider having multiple people come at each visit…which leads me to the positive aspects of having multiple cleaners at one time.

Most obviously, the work gets done faster. If a job would take one person 4 hours, then two people will be in and out in around 2 hours, and 4 people would be done in approximately 1 hour. While this may sound great, it comes with some big downsides. Firstly, having multiple people cleaning at the same time creates an atmosphere that can best be described as chaotic. The team members will be in multiple rooms at the same time, which often makes the client feel like they are being chased and displaced for the entire visit (if you’re at home during the cleaning, that is).

Also, accountability goes out the window when there is more than one person. I can’t tell you how many non-Moxie Girl clients have switched to our service because something ended up missing after their last cleaners sent 3 people (we typically send just one person per home). When they call to report the item missing, the business owner asks each cleaner who was in the home, but conveniently none of them remember seeing the item. If you don’t want to risk being in a he said/she said battle with your cleaners, opt for fewer people per visit.

Question #3: How Much Will It Cost?

Call 4 different house cleaners, and you will likely get 4 different answers about how much it will cost to have your house cleaned. Some will tell you a price per hour per person, some have an hourly price per team, and some give you a price per job. Most often, when house cleaning businesses are young, they will charge hourly because they are still figuring out how long the jobs take. If you are being told an hourly price, try and get them to tell you a range of hours it should take. That way, if they are charging $30 per hour, and they expect the job to take 4-6 hours, you can expect to pay $120-$180. Find out what will happen if the job they told you would take 5 hours actually takes 15. Will they charge you the additional $300? Or is there a cap?

Most often, an underestimation of hours happens because the business is young and they haven’t learned how to estimate correctly yet. Other times businesses will bid jobs extremely low to get a new contract, then charge the client outrageous amounts after the work is done. Make sure to get any quote you receive in writing to protect yourself in case of a discrepancy.

Finally, make sure to get a detailed list of what you can expect to be done during the visit. Some cleaners won’t change bedding; others won’t do dishes. To prevent any misunderstandings, make sure that your expectations are in line with the service provided.

Now that you are armed with these 3 questions, you are ready to make an informed decision when hiring your house cleaners. As with any buying decision, make sure to shop around, get several quotes, and most importantly, trust your gut. The decision to bring someone into your home is a big one, and trust should outweigh a cheap price every time.

Do you have any questions on this episode? Any lessons you’ve learned the hard way when hiring a house cleaner? Post them in the comments section below, or on my Facebook wall.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Cleaning woman and Dollars in Woman's Hand images from Shutterstock

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