When hiring an individual or team to come perform a service at your home… you may find yourself concerned with a number of unsettling scenarios including:
- What if they steal something?
- What if they break something?
- If they get hurt while working at my house… am I liable?
Unfortunately, not all service providers are taking the proper precautions to ensure your protection in the event any of these scenarios play out. It’s important to educate yourself so you know you’re hiring a company that is certified, trained, insured, bonded and/or background checked.
Depending on the type of service being offered, the risk of injury or property damage may range from low to high. Some maintenance or cleaning tasks could involve heavy machinery or impose some danger if the field technician is working on a ladder. It’s important that you discuss any/all possibilities of injury or damage during your consultation with the service provider you’re considering – and to ask detailed questions about their insurance policy. Never hesitate to ask for a copy of all policies or certifications they claim to have. Also, keep in mind that you get what you pay for. A reputable, responsible company will charge accordingly for the costs associated with worker’s comp, insurance or licenses, but it’s up to you as the consumer to decide if it’s worth the peace of mind it provides. Eliminating any worry of being liable while they’re on the property is something to consider.
What does it mean to be bonded and/or insured?
Worker’s compensation and liability insurance are a bit different. It’s important that you ask your service provider which types of insurance policies they have… and find out why, or why not.
Worker’s compensation relieves any party from being held liable for injuries sustained on the job site. This is very important for all parties involved because the injured worker will receive compensation for medical services and lost wages regardless of who is at fault.
Liability insurance deals with property damage typically. If someone’s painting your home, mowing your lawn or cleaning your windows… there’s always a risk of accidental damage to both your property and theirs. Rather than going through your homeowner’s insurance, the service provider’s insurance should handle the claim.
To be bonded, a company must ensure that the homeowner is covered in the event of a theft in the home. This is referred to as a fidelity bond, or “feel good bond.” This reassures the client that in the event of a theft, they are covered for their loss.
References and Background Checks
Because of online review forums, it’s not as common anymore for service providers to provide a list of clients you may call as references. If your service provider has a presence on sites such as Angie’s List, Yelp, Facebook and/or Home Advisor… start there. These sites are dedicated to providing real testimonials from customers just like you in your community. Doing a bit of research to see what your neighbors are saying about the company you’re considering is a great way to gauge the reliability and quality of service. If you see something on these sites that concerns you, ask your service provider to explain. It’s important that you know what to expect when inviting a new company into your home. Something else you may want to consider is whether or not the company runs background checks on the individuals performing the work in your home. Are the field technicians trustworthy? Will they be on time? Will they provide quality service? Will they respect your property? It’s important that you feel comfortable welcoming these “strangers” into your home, and it’s up to your service provider to screen each employee to ensure the lowest level of risk by not sending anyone with a criminal background to your home.
When it comes to home services, don’t make decisions based on price alone. We encourage you to receive multiple bids from different providers in your area, and to ask questions about liability. Never hesitate to request a copy of up to date policies for verification. Remember that you get what you pay for, and that the cheapest deal may be the riskiest. A company that doesn’t run background checks or insure their workers commonly cut corners elsewhere. The quality of service and equipment is typically reflected in their pricing.
So we have to ask… what does it take for you to trust a “stranger” that you invite into your home? What are some red flags you look for when hiring a service provider? In an industry highly dependent on reputation, customer referrals and good word of mouth, home service providers are always doing their best to improve every aspect of the customer experience to be invited back to a client’s home. Stay safe out there!