Housekeeper contracts: What to consider before you hire

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After several rounds of interviews, you've finally found a housekeeper who fits all of your criteria. Congratulations! Let's do a quick recap of all the things you did to get to this point:

  • You figured out what kind of housekeeping services you're going to need;
  • You learned about the factors that impact housekeeping costs, and you used our housekeeping rates calculator to figure out what other people in your area are paying for cleaning services; and,
  • You interviewed a bunch of prospective housekeepers, armed with a list of customized questions you created yourself.

Your next step is to make sure that you're clear about all the terms of employment. Even if you're 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.

What Should You Include in a Housekeeper Contract?

  • Terms of Payment: The amount as well as the method for paying (each week, each month, cash or check, etc.).
     
  • Time: Work with your housekeeper to establish a set number of hours for he/she to work.
     
  • Expectations: Detail out exactly what your expectations are. Be specific with your requests, such as vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing the bathtub, so that there is no room for confusion.  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 Provides What: Establish who will provide cleaning equipment such as the vacuum cleaner and cleaning supplies.
     
  • Establish Limits: Be clear about what areas, if any, are off limits, and whether the housekeeper is allowed to store her lunch in the refrigerator,  use the microwave or other appliances to make a meal during the day.
     
  • Kid and Pet Policy:  If you have pets, it’s likely best to put them in a restricted area while your housekeeper is cleaning to avoid any issues. The same goes for children. If you have little ones, it might be a good idea to take them out of the house, or at least out of the way, for a bit so that the housekeeper can do her job without distractions.
     
  • Time Off: Define provisions for sick or vacation days, including how much notice either party requests for rescheduling.
     
  • Terms for Ending the Relationship
     
  • Benefits: Discuss taxes (see below) and health benefits prior to hiring.

Other Things You Should Consider Before Making the Hire

What Your Homeowner's or Renter's Insurance Policy 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 while your housekeeper is on the job.


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. If you pay an employee who is not a self-employed contractor more than $2,000 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 the terms of the contract have been agreed upon, 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? Schedule a regular time for a phone call? Consistent communication will help ensure that you are both satisfied with the arrangement.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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