How clean is your house?
There is something particularly rewarding about coming back to a home that has been professionally cleaned. Not only will you have saved yourself hours of drudgery but you can enjoy – if only for a short time – the sight of your home looking its very best.
How much it will cost you varies around the country but in my area of north London, prices range from £8 to £10 per hour – and a three-bedroom house takes about three hours to clean.
So how do you find an honest, reliable cleaner, and what can you do to hold on to them?
At the top end of the market, professional cleaning agencies will provide everything you need to get the job done. You can relax in the knowledge that cleaners will be reference-checked and are covered by the agency's insurance policy in case they break anything – but you may be tied into a contract committing you to so many hours a week, a fortnight or month.
Professional agencies tend to quote by the job rather than the hour, because they sometimes work in teams to get the cleaning done more quickly. For example, Molly Maid (mollymaid.co.uk), which operates in cities from Aberdeen to Brighton, provides uniformed teams of cleaners who arrive in customised Molly Maid cars - but you have to arrange a home visit to get a quote.
A relatively new way to find a cleaner is to book online with specialist websites. These charge a flat fee of £10 an hour, with around £8 or £9 going to the cleaner. Two to look out for are Mopp.com, which has cleaners in all major UK cities, and Hassle.com, which operates in London and Manchester.
In this mainly female industry, it has been men who have seen the gap in the market for this type of online marketplace. Best friends Pete Dowds and Tom Brooks set up Mopp after they had a party and spent two hours online the next day unsuccessfully trying to find a cleaner.
Mopp cleaners must speak English to conversational level, have to take a cleaning exam and are assessed from customer feedback after their initial cleans.
Meanwhile, over at Hassle, Tom Nimmo worked as a management consultant together with Alex Depledge and Jules Coleman before they set up the business.
"Hassle connects those looking for a tidier house with local, trusted cleaners and then helps to facilitate the ongoing relationship by providing simple online tools to manage that relationship," says Depledge.
"Customers enjoy the flexibility of being able to move bookings themselves without penalty. We operate a strict no-contract, no tie-in policy and require only 24 hours' notice to cancel an upcoming booking. Agencies, by contrast, ask clients to sign minimum three-month contracts and alter their pricing depending on the frequency and duration of clean."
Another advantage of these websites is that payment is made online by credit or debit card, so there's no hunting around for cash on the day.
And you can relax in the knowledge that cleaners have been thoroughly vetted. Mopp.com and Hassle.com put their cleaners through a third-party check, which covers ID, the right to work in the UK and checks to see if they have any County Court Judgements or bankruptcy orders on their records.
What cleaners will (and won't) do
Treat your cleaner with respect and don't expect them to do anything you wouldn't be prepared to do yourself. As standard, cleaners will clean the kitchen – including washing the dishes and all appliances – showers, baths, toilets fixtures and fittings, vacuum or mop floors, dust and wipe surfaces, make beds, and remove rubbish. You can always suggest extra jobs if they have time.
Tom Brooks, founder of Mopp.com, says: "Our cleaners are always prepared to go to great lengths to do a fantastic job but we're also very protective of our cleaning teams and we wouldn't expect them to do anything inappropriate.
"They have had some extraordinary requests ranging from scrubbing more than 300 bathroom tiles with a toothbrush to cleaning a customer's dog."
Insurers generally cover any genuine theft that occurs in the home regardless of whether the culprit was someone working in the home – so long as you report the theft to the police. Policies vary, however, when it comes to claiming for stolen cash when there's no sign of forcible entry.
Katie Lomas, head of Direct Line home insurance, says: "If customers have particularly valuable items, they should notify their insurer of these to make sure they are covered on their policy and to check if any special terms apply, such as the requirement to keep them in a safe or if they exceed single-item limits. In any case, it is always wise to keep items of a high monetary or sentimental value out of sight and locked in a safe."
And if your cleaner is injured due to your negligence - say you leave a trip hazard on the stairs – your contents policy will cover your legal liability, though those working for a company may be covered by their firm's employers' liability insurance.
Most people just pay their cleaner cash in hand and assume they are self-employed and are responsible for their own tax – but it's not that straightforward.
According to HMRC, if you take someone on to work in your home and they are solely employed by you, you may be legally classed as their employer and become responsible for deducting income tax and National Insurance contributions. However, you'd have to be parting with fairly significant sums – but it's something to consider if you are employing a cleaner frequently.
For more information, visit hmrc.gov.uk or call 03000 527450.
A scheme originally established in 1944 to provide protection against sickness and unemployment as well as helping fund the National Health Service (NHS) and state benefits. NI contributions are compulsory and based on a person’s earnings above a certain threshold. There are several classes of NI, but which one an individual pays depends on whether they are employed, self-employed, unemployed or an employer. Payment of Class 1 contributions by employees gives them entitlement to the basic state pension, the additional state pension, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, maternity allowance and bereavement benefits. From April 2016, to qualify for the full state pension, individuals will need 35 years’ of NI contributions.
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