The Housekeeping Guide: Housekeeper Contracts

Issues to consider when writing a housekeeping contract

Once you have selected and scheduled a housekeeping candidate to interview, it's important to be clear about the terms of employment. Even if you are hiring an individual who is highly recommended by a trusted friend, it makes sense to use a contract so you both understand your arrangement.

While many agencies provide their own contracts, if you are hiring an individual you will need to write your own. You can use the points in the contract as interviewing questions. It helps you keep the interview organized and ensures that you won't skip any important information.

Don't forget to let your candidate talk to you, so you can get to know him or her. Encourage them to tell you about past jobs they've liked and disliked and to provide you with three references, names and, phone numbers you can call. If they don't have this information on hand, let them know they can call you with it later, but that you will not do any hiring without completing those reference calls.

Good Contracts Address:

  • Terms of payment: the amount as well as the method for paying (each week, each month, cash or check, etc.).
  • Hours the housekeeper will work.
  • What the housekeeper is expected to do -- vacuum, dust, scrub the bathtub, etc. Specify if extra services, such as laundry, ironing, unloading the dishwasher, or washing windows, will be included on a regular basis, or can be requested for an additional fee. Also clarify what the housekeeper expects of you. For example, the sink will be clear of dirty dishes and the floor in the playroom will be picked up, or the driveway and walkway will be shoveled during the winter.
  • Who will provide cleaning equipment, such as the vacuum cleaner, and cleaning supplies.
  • Which areas, if any, are off limits, and whether the housekeeper is allowed to use the microwave or other appliances to make lunch during the day.
  • Policies about pets -- such as whether or not dogs should be placed in restricted areas or in a fenced-in yard during cleaning.
  • Provisions for sick or vacation days.
  • How much notice either party requests for rescheduling.
  • Terms for ending the contract.
  • Taxes and health benefits.

What Your Homeowner's or Renter's Insurance Should Cover

If you are hiring someone to work in your home on a regular basis, make sure your homeowner's or renter's insurance policy covers any accidents or injuries that might occur during work time.

Taxes

You don't have to worry about paying taxes for housekeepers who work for an agency. If your housekeeper works for others, and provides her own equipment, she is considered a self-employed contractor, and it is her responsibility to pay taxes. But if you pay an employee who is not a self-employed contractor more than $1,500 in wages during a calendar year, you are responsible for reporting that employee's income to the IRS, and for withholding their Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes. Some states also require you to withhold tax. Check with the IRS and your state's department of revenue about the exact regulations, as they are frequently updated. If you don't follow the tax laws, you could be charged back taxes, plus a penalty.

Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9

You are also required to fill out an Employment Eligibility Verification form I-9, which verifies that your housekeeper is legally entitled to work in the United States.

House Access

The most convenient way to give your housekeeper access to your home when you are not there is to provide a key. You can leave the key in a secure location at your home or make a copy to give to the housekeeper. A special alarm access code can be set up and then changed if she leaves the job. Make sure to set up a regular system so the cleaner does not end up being locked out. Most agencies charge a fee for lockouts.

Communication

Once you have agreed on the terms of the contract, discuss how you will stay in touch with each other in the future, especially if you plan to be out while the housekeeper comes. Will you leave each other notes? Plan a regular time for a phone call? Regular communication will help ensure that you are both satisfied with your arrangement.

Firing a Housekeeper

If you've decided that your current cleaning situation is not working out, how do you go about firing your housekeeper?

Most experts agree that if you need to fire your housekeeper or crew, it is best to be upfront about the reason. After all, this is a service that you are paying for, so remember, it is your prerogative to find someone else.

If it is an agency, and you have fulfilled your contract with them, explain that you are unhappy and have decided to look for another service to use.

If it is an individual, it can be a bit trickier, as many housekeepers become close to your family. In this case, to avoid hurt feelings you may want to simply say that you do not need their services anymore.

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Comments (11)
jetpack
what is the going rate per hour for cleaning homes/condos that are 2400-5000 sq ft? If it is a custom home with granite, marble, hard wood etc, should it be priced by the hour or job?
Posted: March 12, 2014 at 8:06 AM
Beverly C.
take him to small claims court....
Posted: November 03, 2013 at 9:50 AM
Photo of Latonya S.
Latonya S.
What happens when you have cleaned a home for 2 days and the second day they say they don not need you anymore. So I said that was fine and gave back the key and he handed me my money. I thought very usual i worked 13.5 hours at 15 hour by my self. And when I got into my car I seen that he had only gave me 40 dollars and so I went back up to the house and told him he only gave me 40 dollars. He said I know I said I worked 13.5 hours and he had wrote me a check the first day for 108.00 and the balance owed for the last day was 94.50 so he shorted me 54.50 so my question is what do I do I earned that money he ended up choosing to pay me 7.27 an hour please help me I have been robbed.
Posted: October 26, 2013 at 4:02 PM
Photo of Fiqirete R.
Fiqirete R.
Thank you
Posted: May 18, 2013 at 10:57 PM
Stephanie Breedlove
Hi Susanne! A signed waiver will not circumvent federal or state law. If the house cleaner is an employee of a house cleaning business, the business' insurance and/or workers' compensation policy will cover work-related injuries. If the house cleaner is an employee of the family, I would recommend the family purchase a workers' compensation policy to cover the same work-related injuries.
Posted: April 22, 2013 at 1:08 PM
Photo of Susanne P.
Susanne P.
Would having your freelance house cleaner sign a waiver against liabilities for injuries unless resulting from the homeowner's negligence (ice in driveway)release you of that added financial burden? I am curious if that would suffice in court. Does anyone know?
Posted: April 20, 2013 at 7:27 PM
Photo of Constance S.
Constance S.
If you hired a self employed/sole proprietor housekeeper (does not work for a company - no W-2) the homeowner does not have to file anything, maybe write it off, but that is optional on their part. A company that sub-contracts a self-emploed person for their services must 1099 that person. It is solely the responsibility of the housekeeper to do thier own taxes...qurtely or annually.
Posted: April 19, 2013 at 12:32 AM
Photo of Maine Y.
Maine Y.
If you've contacted your Homeowners insurance agent...and has been told that there is no add on that can be put on your current policy to cover your employee then yes I would suggest getting a work comp policy for your peace of mind
Posted: March 17, 2013 at 2:26 PM
Kristin C.
I have hired a private (she does not work for an agency) freelance housekeeper to clean my grandmothers home twice a month. I am concerned about liability should she injure herself while on the job. It is my understanding that a homeowners policy would not cover such an injury. Is it possible or even necessary for me to purchase a workers comp policy ? Thanks for the insight.
Posted: August 19, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Photo of Anne L.
Anne L.
Actually, no. www.irs.gov, tax topic 756. They are not considered independent contractors, because you control not only the work but how they do it (as opposed to a plumber, who you do not tell how to do his job!). Therefore, if you pay them more than $1700 in cash (check or money order) wages in a year, you generally must withold FICA but not Federal witholding unless they ask you to. There are software programs out there that manage household employees taxes for you, which might be helpful if you have large nanny/housekeeper expenses.
Posted: January 25, 2012 at 7:29 AM
Photo of Pamela G.
Pamela G.
I assume you are the employer or the housekeepers are independent contractors. I also assume I do not need to with hold any thing from their check. Am I correct? Thank you, Pamela Gray
Posted: October 08, 2011 at 2:02 AM
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