Theft. Inadequate cleaning. Unreliable maids. Any one of these could happen if you don’t do your homework before hiring a housekeeping service.
“Homeowners are looking for someone to count on,” says Betty Nicholson, owner of Mothers Cleaning Co-Op in Citrus Heights, Calif. “Integrity is key – a person who gives their all, every time.”
Are employees treated well?
Nicholson says the cleaning services industry often employs unskilled and underpaid workers.
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“It preys on the weak and poor, working them like dogs with never any hope for a raise,” she says. “For most, it’s just a dead-end job that attracts desperate people.”
Nicholson says she took a new approach by creating a profit-sharing cooperative that includes 60 moms. She says the women work part-time and earn $25 an hour, affording them extra income and an investment in a local enterprise.
Many owners of highly rated house cleaning services say they treat their employees like family, which makes all the difference to clients.
Mandy Jordan, owner of Sparklean in Monument, Colo., says watching her business grow feels like raising a child.
“I’m very involved,” she says. “I pay my girls good and treat them like gold. Those are all keys to success.”
Remember the old adage “you get what you pay for.” If you choose a cleaning service because it offers the lowest price, you could get sub-par work or a company that doesn’t fully screen its employees.
Verify insurance and bonding
Meant to protect the homeowner if something goes wrong, insurance covers damages by the cleaner, and a bond covers any employee criminal conduct.
Always ask for proof of liability insurance and verify the company is bonded. You can also ask for their policy numbers and call the insurance company to confirm the policy is current.
For companies with more than one employee, make sure they also have workers’ compensation insurance to cover any potential injuries on the job.
Run a background check
Randy Neese, owner of All About Clean in Nashville, says he runs background checks on all workers and performs multiple interviews.
“We can teach people to clean well, but a person’s morals are deeply rooted,” he says. “Insurance and bonding are great, but the most important part is to hire (people) with high integrity.”
Ask to see a copy of background checks on any employee who'll work in your home, but even that isn’t always foolproof.
“If a person just moved to the state, their background will not show anything,” says Ilona Erst of American Maids of Chicago, Inc. “We never send a new person alone to a house until we feel we can trust them. We also use the ORION pre-employment test during the initial interview, which helps us understand what the person is capable of when it comes to theft, drugs or alcohol use.”
For extra peace of mind, some state and local police agencies offer employee background checks for a fee. Various online services charge around $20 to do a nationwide criminal check.