As readers recall from last week's column, it's vital we get our ducks in a row when hiring a cleaning crew who will have access to our home and belongings. Trust is key here, which makes it even more important to research before and during the interview process.
• Ask for proof of certification rather than depending upon agency bonding; unfortunately, the latter can be an uphill battle for restitution if property is damaged or stolen. Not only is it their word versus yours, bonding reimbursement is applicable only if an employee is arrested, tried, and found guilty. With this said, it's not a bad idea to tell the folks upfront that - even though you'll give the owner/manager the chance to investigate - you won't hesitate to call the authorities if you discover something missing. So far as breakables are concerned, a company usually is eager to keep your business and will settle your claim. Going back to ARCSI's suggestion, give preference to companies that include a supervisor as part of each crew. Even better is your ability to communicate in a mutually-understandable language. And let's face it: anytime an eagle eye is watching over your possessions while the team cleans, the less likely you'll suffer a loss of any type.
• Again, be safe than sorry. First, make certain the agency has cross-checked a worker's documentation to verify identity. Next, confirm that the company runs background checks to weed out felony and misdemeanor convictions. Thirdly, it's not a bad idea that the agency has reviewed applicants' credit histories, as well as prior employment and any previous judgments. So far as self-employed house cleaners are concerned, contact your state's attorney general to see what, if any, checks are available.
• Be sure you're covered if Mindy or Mitchell Maid gets injured on the job. A good homeowner's policy covers some, but not all, workers who enter your home. A separate liability policy is pretty cheap, but a number of them don't kick in until the losses are high. The best of all worlds is a mutual and signed agreement that "M&M" are independent contractors and, therefore, you're not responsible for taxes, Social Security, or Workman's Comp. (Note: While you shouldnw't have to carry a workman's compensation policy, it's certainly imperative the service does. Onsite injuries can occur, making it necessary that the company's policy covers these, as well as employees' lost wages resulting from the injury.) In fact, the service should provide you with a separate certificate for each policy it carries.
• Look for guaranteed service. The old adage "If Mama ain't happy, then nobody's happy" certainly applies here, and every professional cleaning service should offer this guarantee to make Mama happy. If something's wrong, call the company that day so they can return to fix the problem. Even if it's a relatively minor concern that really doesn't warrant a return trip, management still needs to know what's amiss. Obviously if this (or any other) problem continues and the service is not up to the par you and the company agreed upon, it may be time to switch cleaning crews or even to discontinue using this particular cleaning service at all.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer books. Email her at consumer firstname.lastname@example.org.