Considerations When Hiring A House Cleaner

Not everyone plays by the rules.  
In the U.S., residential cleaning has always been a large part of the underground economy. Taxes and required business costs such as workers comp., liability insurance, unemployment taxes, payroll taxes, and business registration fees are not being paid by those trying to beat the system. Some independent house cleaners purposely fail to report their income to avoid income taxes. We even know of some unscrupulous independent house cleaners who cleaned houses for cash under-the-table while collecting government assistance (welfare). Those trying to beat the system in this way often undercut the rates of lawfully run businesses to gain clients.

A legit cleaning service will have expenses such as office overhead, insurance, and taxes to pay. The cost of hiring a legit service will be higher because an independent cleaner, or an unregistered company, will not have these expenses. Hiring an unregistered company or an independent house cleaner may be cheaper in the short-term but can have consequences down the road. Be an informed consumer and do your homework. Remember, if the price seems so low it’s too good to be true, there is a reason. The risks involved are not worth it to save $20 tor $30!

“Pay cheaply now and cross your fingers really tight that nothing goes wrong or pay a little bit more for not only the best cleaning but the best personal and financial protection you can get!” –  From the article “Trunk Slammer: Why premium value will protect you longer than a low price” 

Ocean State House Cleaning is a registered and fully insured business.
There are a lot of house cleaning services to choose from. We are not the cheapest cleaning service out there and for good reason. Price is an important factor when choosing a cleaning service. However, there are so many other variables that you need to consider besides price. For instance, all our staff are employees (not independent contractors or independent cleaners like Handy or Takl). We are fully insured (both workers comp and liability) and registered with the state of Rhode Island and the IRS as a business entity. We take care of all employment, tax and insurance issues so that you don’t have to worry about it. Independent house cleaners and unregistered companies can’t say the same.


Questions You Need To Ask When Hiring A House Cleaner

Does the cleaning service carry Workers Comp. insurance?

Are you sure? Have you checked with the RI Dept. of Labor to see if the company or individual carries workers comp. insurance on the workers they have working for them and if the policy is current? You can check for yourself by using the RI Dept. of Labor Workers Comp. Fraud Database available online by clicking here and then clicking the button that says “Click here to verify coverage”            

 If your independent house cleaner shows up with helpers, she better have Workers’ Comp.           

Rhode Island law states that any employer with 1 or more employees must have a valid Workers Comp. insurance policy in place. If you hire an independent cleaning lady and she shows up to your home with workers in tow, that is a huge red flag. Those workers are her employees and if she doesn’t have the proper insurance in place, you may find yourself responsible if they are injured on your property.            

Don’t be fooled. It can happen to you!

Still not convinced insurance is important? We often hear potential clients tell us that their homes are safe and there is nothing a cleaner can injure themselves on in their home, so our advice doesn’t apply to them. Consider the cases below. These are actual cases where a house cleaner suffered an injury in someone’s home.            

– Maid slips and falls in the client’s driveway while walking into the home to clean. Awarded $25,000            

– Maid slips and falls walking up the client’s steps to get into the house to clean. Awarded $32,000            

– Maid slips and falls while cleaning the inside of the tub enclosure. Awarded $1,500            

– Maid accidentally drops a bucket of water on wood stairs inside the home, doesn’t clean it up well and then subsequently slips on the water and falls. Awarded $4,000            

In all four cases, the injury wouldn’t have happened had the cleaners taken proper care. The house cleaners won their lawsuits anyway. As you can see, your home can be perfectly safe, and accidents can still happen. All four of these cases are actual workers comp. cases that our workers comp. insurance paid out on our behalf. Protect yourself by only hiring a cleaning service with a valid workers comp. policy in place. You can never be too careful!   

Does the company do background checks on new hires?                       

You should only hire a company that provides background checked employees to provide services within your home. Don’t be afraid to ask the company for proof.          

Is the company legit? Or are they a “trunk slammer”?            

If the answer is “no, they are not legit”, we do not recommend that you hire this company or individual. You may be putting yourself at risk! If the answer is “yes”, can they prove it by having the insurance company provide you with an insurance certificate? Including Workman’s comp?            

A “trunk slammer” is any fly-by-night cleaning company or individual who cleans homes without carrying the proper insurances. They are often is paid “under the table” and fail to report their income to the IRS. They usually pay their staff under-the-table wages to avoid employer-paid payroll taxes and state-required insurances. Hiring a “trunk slammer” may be cheaper than hiring a legit service but there are consequences. If you have problems with the quality of the cleaning, you will often have no recourse. If they break or damage something in your home, they probably don’t have insurance to cover the damage.  Besides, do you really want to hire someone so underhanded that they feel it’s okay to cheat the system by avoiding taxes and insurance? If they are willing to cheat the system like that, you should wonder what else they are willing to cheat at.

That independent house cleaner might be considered your employee.     

Anyone you hire to work at your home who is not an employee or sub-contractor of a registered company, or who is not a sole proprietor of her own registered company, is considered your employee. If you pay your independent house cleaner $2,200 or more for the year 2020, or if you pay $1,000 or more in any calendar quarter, the IRS requires you to withhold employee taxes and submit these along with employer-paid taxes to the IRS. You will need to withhold social security and Medicare taxes for your employee along with a matching contribution equaling 15.3% of the wages paid to your house cleaner. If you have a household employee and you don’t withhold and pay these taxes, you will be liable for the employment taxes that you should have withheld and paid. For more information please read IRS Publication 926 “Household Employer’s Tax Guide”   

Does the cleaning service misclassify its staff?                        

Beware of cleaning services who present their staff as their employees but have them classified as independent contractors. Does the company use company cars? Provide company supplied cleaning chemicals and equipment? Does the company direct the work of the cleaner? If so, chances are their staff are employees, but they have misclassified them as independent contractors to avoid paying payroll taxes and workers comp. insurance premiums. Payroll taxes and insurance can easily add 30-40% to a company’s labor expenses which is why it is so tempting for companies to try and skirt the rules by misclassifying staff.

It doesn’t hurt to ask!

Always ASK if a company’s workers are employees of the company. You also need to ask for proof of their worker’s comp. policy. Companies who misclassify staff as independent contractors can undercut the prices of legit services because they are not playing by the rules. You also will not have the same protections with a company who uses independent contractors instead of employees.  Most liability insurance policies do not cover the work completed by an independent contractor. 

If the rates being charged by a company are lower than other companies, you can bet they aren’t properly classifying their staff. The best way to know for sure is to demand a current worker’s comp. insurance certificate directly from their insurance company. If they won’t give you the name of their insurance carrier you need to walk away and hire someone else.

Is the cleaning staff being fairly compensated for their work? 

We have found numerous online complaints from people who didn’t receive payment for the work they did for other cleaning services. How can you find out what companies have done this to their staff? Usually, a quick look at online reviews will tell the full story.

Here are some complaints we found online:

“Please do not hire this company! They do not pay their employees! I was employed by them for four weeks, and over that course of time, every Friday, there was an excuse as to why they could not pay me.”

“I worked for this company for a year and I was let go because they didn’t want to pay me all the money they owed me”

“If there is anyone out there who has worked for a girl name Kristina cleaning houses watch out. She has you work and then doesn’t want to pay you….”

“I worked, got my check, deposited it, and it didn’t clear. Promised he would send out another one. Here it is September and I’m still waiting.”

Working for a cleaning service is hard work. It’s a physically exhausting job. Unfortunately, many cleaning services pay their staff minimum wage or just barely above. Some feel they can get away with not paying their staff fairly because they think the employee doesn’t know enough to complain. We have always taken the stance that our staff is our most prized asset. They deserve to be compensated at the highest possible rate for the hard work they do. In the past, we have helped new employees file grievances with the RI Dept. of Labor over labor law violations by prior cleaning companies they have worked for. No one should ever go to work, work hard and then not get paid. It’s not right, not fair and it’s against the law.


Hiring a company like Ocean State House Cleaning will cost a little more, but the benefits far outweigh the risks of hiring an independent house cleaner or a company that doesn’t play by the rules.  

"I have been using Ocean State House Cleaning for more that 5 years and their teams always do a great job and pay attention to the smallest details. I have recommended Ocean State House Cleaning many times and will continue to recommend them. A special shout out for your help this past month as well. THANK YOU!"
Nancy D.
Blackstone, MA