Q: Are you bonded and insured?
Skipping this question could cost you millions. A company should carry both liability and worker's compensation insurance, at minimum. Ask for proof.
Worker's comp is especially important, since without it, you could be held liable for job-related injuries, including lifelong disability, says Ron Holt, CEO of Two Maids & a Mop. "You may be held responsible for injuries sustained in your home or even in an auto accident traveling to it," he says. Don't think your homeowners insurance policy is a backup, either, as some do not cover people working in your home.
Q. What products do you use?
Look for a company or cleaning lady that uses her own cleaning products, instead of using yours, says Matt Ricketts of Better Life Maids.
Cleaners know how to use familiar products safely and effectively, he says, so they're less likely to damage surfaces. Plus, it's less money and headache for you. Of course, this question is even more important if you want to be sure only non-toxic cleaners are used.
Q: Can I get some references?
It's smart to ask home cleaning services or a cleaning lady for references from current clients. At the very least look for reviews online. Ask friends or your Facebook community, and search sites such as angieslist.com, verifiedservicereports.com, yelp.com, and more.
Q. How do you screen your staff?
Ask about local and federal background screenings, which Ricketts says are the bare minimum. "A rigorous screening process scares off many bad applicants from the very beginning," he says. "Ideally, they'll perform drug screenings, check references, and check applicants against state and local sex offender registries, too."
If you're hiring an independent cleaning lady, certainly Google her, and do a background check online, too. It's quick and inexpensive—and could potentially save you immeasurable headache.
Q: Do you have any training or certifications?
Home-cleaning certification is relatively new, so it's not yet widespread, says Derek Christian of My Maid Service. If a company has special training or certification, it's quite likely they're committed to skill, safety, and professionalism.
The Association of Residential Cleaning Services International (ARCSI) awards a Seal of Excellence to companies that provide, among other things, training, insurance and background checks. And the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) certifies after passing a comprehensive exam.
Q: How much do you charge?
When calling around for cleaning quotes, know that home cleaning services or a cleaning lady should be able to give you at least a rough estimate over the phone so you get a general idea of whether or not they're in your budget. "If they can't or won't on the first call, save your time and energy and find another provider," Ricketts says.
When settling upon a price, a flat fee is preferable, but if they insist on hourly, be sure to come up with a "Do Not Exceed Price." Both prevent unwelcome surprises.
Q: What's the easiest way to get ahold of someone?
Oftentimes, home cleaning services work hard to gain your business at the outset. Once they book that first appointment, however, you may find they're not nearly as friendly and responsive. If that happens anytime, especially early on, run.
"What happens when you really need to get a hold of them?" Ricketts says. "You want proactive communication. Cleaning reminders, calls on your cleaning day, and follow-ups by phone or email after each visit are a great way to tell if your new provider really wants to keep you in the loop." Open communication allows you to relay any problems, which helps your service grow better over time, as well as thanks for a job well done.