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Who Pays When Stuff Breaks? You or the Employee?

Who Pays When Stuff Breaks, Broken VaseStuff breaks. But who pays when stuff breaks on a house cleaning job? Do you pay as the cleaning employer or does the maid pay? And what if your independent contractor breaks stuff? 

“I had a house cleaner come clean my space and he was doing speed cleaning… and he broke a mirror. I get it, stuff breaks. But who pays when the maid breaks stuff?” A common question we ask a house cleaner today. 

Angela Brown, The House Cleaning Guru gives cleaning advice and pro cleaning tips for broken stuff. 

Today’s cleaning channel sponsors are HouseCleaning360.com (List your maid service and find cleaning jobs.) Savvy Perks (Employee discounts for small business owners.) Savvy Cleaner (House Cleaner education.) And My Cleaning Connection (a resource hub of books, articles and cleaning supplies.)

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Watch: Who Pays When Stuff Breaks? You or the Employee?


Hey there, I’m Angela Brown, and this is Ask a House Cleaner. This is a show where you get to ask a house cleaning question, and I get to help you find an answer.

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Question: Who Pays When Stuff Breaks? You or the Employee?

Who Pays When Stuff Breaks, Woman Wiping FurnitureWhen your employees break stuff at a customer’s house, do they pay for it, or as the owner of the company, do you pay for it? We’re going to talk about that today. 

“Hello. My name is Andrea, and I’m asking how you handle a cleaner, as I have taken them on myself, so there are no agencies involved. I am the agent, and I keep finding that the cleaners or domestic helpers I take, they keep breaking things. What’s the best solution? Should I ask them to pay?”

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Answer: Yes. As the Employer When Stuff Breaks You Must Replace it

Who Pays When Stuff Breaks, Writing CheckAlrighty, so when an employee breaks something, do they pay for it, or do you pay for it? The key word you used is an employee. If you have a maid who breaks something, as the boss and the owner of the company, yes, you pay for it. I’m assuming you have insurance. And so, if somebody in your company breaks something, you are on the hook, and you are responsible.

Now, trusted, it’s always an accident. Nobody goes into anyone’s house and breaks stuff on purpose. Those are not the people that we hire. We hire people who go in there to make your lives better, not to come in and break your stuff. But breaking stuff happens. It happens in every business. It happens to every house cleaner. And, believe it or not, it happens usually on a monthly cycle.

Stuff Breaks on Occasion – It’s Called an Accident

Who Pays When Stuff Breaks, Woman Making I Dont Know Gesture So, there’s one day of the month when you’re super clumsy and you drop stuff. Or you bump into stuff or you didn’t see something was there, and it goes shattering to the floor. It happens. It happens to every house cleaner. So, stuff breaks.

Now, on the initial walkthrough, you can cover that with the customer. “Hey, when stuff breaks, it’s not intentional. We get to move thousands of things a day to pick up and dust underneath and around it. On occasion, we break something. Now, I will always tell you when I break something so there will never be a surprise. I will always let you know, and I will always pay for it.”

When Stuff Breaks – Always Admit it

Who Pays When Stuff Breaks, Woman on PhoneSo right up front, that’s covered. Now, if it’s your house cleaning employee that breaks something, it’s going to be an accident. But they need to tell you as well. And it needs to be okay for your employee to tell you when they break a customer’s belongings. Because if they hide it, and don’t tell the client and if they don’t tell you, that’s when you have real problems. Because now you go into damage control mode when the customer finds out. And reputation management is much costlier than just replacing the broken item.

So breaking items, yeah, it’s common. It happens to everybody, and it will happen to your employees. 

Employee vs. Independent Contractor

Who Pays When Stuff Breaks, Woman Wiping Glass DoorNow, if you have an independent contractor, the rules are a little bit different. The independent contractor is running a business by themselves. You’re almost like an agent. So, you’re sending them out on jobs, and yes, they are representing your company. 

But they pay for their own everything. They pay for their own clothing, their own transportation, and their own cleaning supplies. They also pay for their own insurance and they pay for things they break, or damage they do to a client’s property.  That does not go through your company.

So, if something breaks on their clock, the independent contractor pays for it. Because they don’t work for you. They work for themselves. 

And so, you need to make that clear in writing, when they come on board with your company.

“Hey, you’re responsible for everything including the things that you break.” 

But if it is your employee, and they are under your roof and under your management, then, yes, as the owner of the company, you are responsible.

When Stuff Breaks the Employee Feels Bad Already

Who Pays When Stuff Breaks, Woman Not Feeling Well Sitting on CouchNow, my suggestion to your is don’t make your employees feel bad. If they break something, they already feel bad enough. I’ve never met a house cleaner that was like, “Hey, I broke something. I’m so proud of myself.” No, they’re like, “Oh, my goodness, I feel so horrible.” 

The customers mean something to them. They value their customers, and they value their customers’ items, so they’re taking care. They’re providing a service. They’re making their lives better. They’re not damaging things on purpose. This is not what they do.

So, if somebody comes to you, and they say, “I broke something, “Hey, it happens. It’s okay. How much was it? What was it? Let’s take care of it immediately.” And then it’s your responsibility as the owner to be diplomatic and kind.

Have a Budget for When Stuff Breaks

Who Pays When Stuff Breaks, Robot Broken CupContact the owner and make arrangements to replace or repair the item. You can buy a new replacement item and have it shipped. Or the client can invoice you for the replacement, or you can offer them a discount on a future cleaning. 

So that is how that works. So, it’s unfortunate. I hate it that we break stuff, but we do. We’re human. We’re not robots, and even robots break stuff. But we are human, and we’re going to make mistakes. So, let the mistakes okay. 

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