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Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Cleaner in New York City
Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus and with millions of people infected, maintaining the utmost levels of hygiene by regular cleaning and disinfecting according to published CDC standards proved one of the most effective ways in preventing the spread of the disease. Hiring a licensed cleaning professional company would ensure the necessary city standards are followed in making our workspaces and homes safe and bring comfort knowing that we do right by our colleagues and families. This article will explore the regulations, licenses, and standards and also provide you with the right questions to ask when hiring a cleaning company in NYC :
- Are You Licensed to Practice as a Cleaning Service in New York City?
- How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other Cleaning Services in New York City?
- What Types of Cleaning Services Do You Offer?
- Do You Comply with New York City's COVID-19 Regulations?
- Do You Provide Commercial Cleaning Services for Non-Residential Buildings in New York City?
- Do You Engage Unionized Cleaners for Non-Residential Buildings in New York City?
- Do You Offer Covid-19 Disinfecting Services in New York City?
- What Cleaning Supplies Do You Use?
- Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Cleaners in New York City?
- How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Cleaner in New York City
Before hiring any cleaning contractor, it is important to make sure that they comply with all applicable local regulatory requirements. While New York City does not issue specific occupational or professional licenses to cleaning contractors, these individuals are typically required to meet certain business-related licensing requirements before operating in the city. The specifics of these requirements are dependent on the cleaning contractor's legal business structure, as well as the scope of services that the contractor offers, and they generally include:
- Obtaining a Certificate of Assumed Name/Business Certificate and appropriate business license from the county clerk's office in the borough where the business is situated and operates
- Registering for a Sales Tax Certificate of Authority with the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance
Note that cleaning contractors that offer to provide interested parties with their services in any public space that is not a store are required to obtain a General Vendor License from the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP). Likewise, individuals that perform any type of home improvement work in New York City are also generally required to possess a DCWP-issued Home Improvement Contractor License before doing so.
You can get more information on the local regulatory requirements for cleaning contractors that operate in New York City by contacting the city's Department of Consumer and Worker Protection at 311 or (212) 639-9675. This department can also help you determine if your preferred cleaning contractor is eligible to provide the type of cleaning service that you require.
Individuals that provide building cleaning and maintenance services in the New York City area are estimated to earn an annual wage of approximately $39,700. However, it should be noted that the cost of services provided by these individuals is primarily influenced by certain factors. These include the size of the home or facility that needs cleaning, the type of cleaning required, and the current state of the area that needs cleaning. Likewise, some cleaning contractors may charge hourly rates for their services while others may utilize a fixed fee charging method. Therefore, you should always get confirmation on the billing structure that your preferred cleaning contractor utilizes before finalizing any hiring arrangements with them. You should also consider getting estimates from multiple cleaning contractors near you to get a fair idea of the average rate for cleaning services in your vicinity.
Building and grounds cleaning workers in New York City earn an average wage of $39,710 annually. A comparison of the average hourly wages of workers in New York City's building and grounds cleaning and maintenance industry against those of workers in the rest of New York State and five other major cities in the country is provided below:
It is important to find out the types of services that your preferred cleaning contractor provides and make sure that these services are in-line with your home's cleaning needs. Cleaning contractors in New York City offer the city's residents a wide range of one-time or recurring services, which include deep house or spring cleanings, moving in/moving out cleanings, and regular room or whole apartment cleanings. Some cleaning contractors also provide specialized services, such as enhanced disinfection services, live-in housekeeping and maid services, green cleaning services, and holiday cleaning services.
Also, it is essential to find out the types of cleaning products that will be used for the job and how much the cleaning contractor's services would cost you. Some common New York City cleaning services cost estimates are provided below:
Hiring a cleaning contractor that adheres to the city's COVID-19 regulations ensures that the health and safety of every resident of your home is not compromised. Data published by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene suggests that 73% of New York City residents have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Nevertheless, as of January 04, 2022, there has been a recent surge in COVID-19 cases recorded in the city, with health officials attributing over 90% of these cases to the omicron variant. As such, when hiring a cleaning contractor in the city, it is important to make sure that they comply with the New York State Public and Private Facilities Cleaning and Disinfection Guidance when carrying out their duties. This guidance provides requirements and stipulations that are designed to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in New York City, and these include cleaning and disinfection procedures, cleaning and disinfection frequency, and the types of cleaning materials to be used. You can get more information on coronavirus-related regulations and guidance by contacting the state Department of Health's New York Metropolitan Area Regional Office at:90 Church Street
New York, NY 10007-2919
Phone: (212) 417-4100
Queries can also be directed to the state's Department of Health via email.
Commercial cleaning contractors typically specialize in the cleaning and disinfection of offices, workspaces, and industrial and medical facilities, unlike residential cleaning contractors, who generally handle the cleaning of homes and domestic dwellings. There are currently no occupation-specific license requirements for cleaning contractors that wish to offer only commercial cleaning services in New York City. However, businesses in the city that are involved in the collection, removal, or disposal of putrescible and non-putrescible materials from commercial establishments are required to obtain a Trade Waste Removal License from the NYC Business Integrity Commission. Note that cleaning contractors that focus solely on commercial cleaning services are also required to meet all other applicable New York City business licensing requirements.
You should always make sure that your intended contractor complies with these requirements before hiring them. Queries related to the licensing requirements for commercial cleaning contractors in New York City can be directed to the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection at 311 or (212) 639-9675. Similarly, inquiries related specifically to the city's Trade Waste Removal License can be directed to the NYC Business Integrity Commission at (212) 437-0500.
In recent years, more and more owners and facility managers of commercial buildings in New York City favor the hiring of union-member cleaning services due to considerations for fairer wages and working hours. While you may consider saving money by contracting a non-unionized cleaning service, you may be faced with pressure from the local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to discontinue such service even after commitment. The 32BJ is New York City's largest union of janitors, representing over 55,000 cleaners, doormen, and elevator operators working in office towers and apartment buildings across the city.
Therefore, when cleaning a commercial building in New York City it is important to determine if your cleaning company employs union members so as not to risk the interruption of your business activities by the SEIU or losing money on hiring non-unionized janitors who would not be allowed to work. Note that other advantages that come with hiring a union cleaning service include up-to-date training certifications, low turnover of employees, and adequate insurance cover for workers.
Carrying out proper and professional cleaning and disinfection of your home as soon as a COVID-19 infection is confirmed amongst its residents or frequent visitors is necessary to prevent the further spread of the virus. Many New York City cleaning contractors provide COVID-19-related cleaning and disinfecting services, and it is your responsibility to make sure that your preferred contractor does this per the requirements of the New York State Public and Private Facilities Cleaning and Disinfection Guidance. These requirements include:
- Wearing face masks and gloves while providing the cleaning and disinfecting service
- Focusing on the immediate areas that were occupied by the individuals diagnosed with COVID-19
- Ensuring that high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, computers, and tables are given extra attention
- Ensuring that there is proper air circulation in the area by leaving windows and doors open. Air circulation can also be increased through the use of fans and HVAC appliances
- Using only New York State registered disinfectants that have been identified as effective against the COVID-19 causative virus
Always get confirmation that your intended cleaning contractor is not only familiar with these requirements but also adheres to them when cleaning and disinfecting your home and facility. It is also a good idea to request the specific names of the disinfectants that will be used for the job, and make sure that they are included in the list of disinfectants that are allowed under the state's cleaning and disinfection guidance. Note that you should always let the cleaning contractor know the exact reason why you wish to retain their services when you contact them.
The selection and appropriate use of supplies and equipment is important for effective cleaning. Depending on the method of cleaning, and the item, environment, and surface to be cleaned, different cleaning supplies are used. For example, ideal cleaning agents for a healthcare space should be nontoxic, soluble, easy to use, and odorless. While an industrial environment will require an acid-based solution for cleaning. Generally, there are four kinds of cleaning agents that are commonly used:
Acids are the most potent cleaning supply and must be handled diluted correctly, otherwise, they are corrosive and poisonous. Typically, acid cleaners are used to descale surfaces and to remove rusts and mineral deposits. Abrasives are chemicals used to scratch off dirt from hard surfaces, degreasers are solvents applied to remove grease from different kinds of surfaces, and detergents are the commonest cleaning agents used in both home and commercial places to wash away dirt. Note, detergents may be powder, liquid, gel, or crystals.
Regardless of the type of cleaning applied, note that cleaning alone may not be enough to rid your home or office of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It is recommended to sanitize after deep cleaning to help prevent cross-contamination, pest infestations, and allergic reactions. There are three common types of sanitizer solutions, including:
- Chlorine/Bleach: effective against bacteria and less expensive
- Quaternary Ammonia (QUAT, QAC): slow-acting but more effective and expensive than chlorine
- Iodine: fast-acting and effective against all bacteria
When you hire cleaning contractors, there is always the risk of damage being done to your property during the job, regardless of how professional and careful these contractors are. Likewise, there is also a chance that the contractor you hire, or a third party, may get injured whilst your cleaning project is ongoing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 307 fatal injuries and 64,790 nonfatal injuries were recorded amongst building cleaning and maintenance workers across the United States in 2020 alone. By making sure that the cleaning contractor you hire is duly insured, you can avoid having to make any out-of-pocket expenses if any of the aforementioned work-related events occur during your home or facility cleaning. Working with duly insured cleaning contractors also gives you a measure of confidence in the contractors' level of professionalism.
Per state law, all businesses and employers in New York City, inclusive of cleaning contractors that operate in the city, are required to have workers' compensation insurance and also provide employee disability coverage to their employees. In addition to this, it is a good idea to make sure that your cleaning contractor has a general liability insurance plan and employee dishonesty insurance coverage too. The former covers the cost of damages done to your property during the project, while the latter covers any financial losses that may arise due to fraudulent acts by the contractor's employees. You can confirm the insurance status of cleaning contractors in New York City by requesting copies of their insurance certificates and contacting the issuing insurance providers to authenticate these certificates.
In December 2020, the New York State Attorney General announced the felony conviction of a local contractor that had defrauded New Yorkers of more than $1 million between 2016 and 2020 by failing to deliver services that had been paid for. According to the announcement, the contractor had used the funds paid by homeowners for home repair and improvement services to finance personal and business expenses and could be facing up to nine years in state prison. When hiring a cleaning contractor in New York City, it is necessary to take certain steps to ensure that you do not fall victim to a home improvement-related scam or other fraudulent activities.
According to a report published by the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP), this department docketed a total of 2,166 complaints concerning various violations of the city's consumer protection law in 2020. These violations include a failure to deliver paid-for services or poor service delivery. While the DCWP was able to secure approximately $1.1 million in restitution for consumers in the city during this period, this outcome is not always guaranteed. Therefore, it is advisable to take steps to make sure that the cleaning contractor you hire in the city is legit and not a con artist looking to defraud you. These steps include:
- Never hire cleaning contractors that show up at your door unsolicited and offer their services
- Always confirm that any cleaning contractor you intend to hire has complied with all applicable local regulatory requirements. You can do this by contacting the DCWP at 311 or (212) 639-9675
- Always request local references from any cleaning contractor that you intend to hire. If the contractor cannot provide at least three verifiable references, then you should strongly consider hiring another contractor
- Get and compare estimates for the job from at least two or three cleaning contractors near you
- Insist on a written contract for the job. This contract should detail the exact nature of the services that the cleaning contractor is expected to provide, the cost of these services, and a timeframe for the provision of the required cleaning services
- Make sure that you have a clear understanding of the contract that you are given before you sign it. Do not sign any contracts that have blank spaces
- Confirm the insurance status of the cleaning contractor
- Make sure that the cleaning contractor has properly vetted all employees that will be personally involved in the job
- Do not pay for the job until it has been completed to your satisfaction. If you have to make any upfront payments, they should be limited to a maximum of 10 - 20% of the total cost of your required cleaning service
You can file complaints concerning deceptive or fraudulent cleaning contractor-related services to the DCWP by calling 311 or via the department's Online Services Portal. Note that you will be required to register a user account to utilize this portal. Alternatively, you can report allegations of criminal behavior involving cleaning contractors by contacting the New York City Police Department Precinct closest to you.
Finally, depending on the outcome of the complaint resolution process, you may wish to take further steps by filing a lawsuit against the cleaning contractor at an appropriate New York City Court. Note that you should always consult with a qualified attorney near you before doing this.