Residential exterior cleaning and roof cleaning have been a service provided by contractors for many decades now. Though there are many exterior cleaning companies out there to choose from, careful research should be done to ensure you hire a true professional. In most states and municipalities, exterior cleaning requires no special licensing. In fact, in most areas of the country, a minimum $30.00 occupational/business license is the only requirement to be in business. In many cases, exterior cleaning contractors have no liability insurance, no workers compensation insurance and are operating the business from personal vehicles with no business insurance bound to them. Because of little or no regulation, coupled with an ease of starting the business, one can find people from all walks of life operating exterior cleaning companies.
Exterior and roof cleaning, as a business, is a great way for recently unemployed and corporate castoffs to start a business and afford themselves an awesome opportunity to support their families. We have seen this trend in down economies and that is what the American Dream is all about. However, there is another element that is drawn to this, the unemployable. From people that just cannot work with anyone else to those who cannot drive company vehicles due to DWI convictions or revoked driver’s licenses, and as disturbing as it is, convicted felons like sex offenders. In fact, the home services industry is riddled with the unemployable. Many news stations have profiled this problem amidst thefts, vandalism, and even home invasions and rape. Some contractors hire employees without documenting the employee or checking their background, paying them under the table.
To worsen the matter, some contractors have created false or misleading logos, seals and certificates to try to add an air of legitimacy to their company. There are even some internet associations/vetting companies (Angie’s List, Home Advisor and the like), that have been created to make contractors seem more professional and even offer certifications that may, in fact, be for marketing purposes only. To avoid this confusion, you the customer and homeowner need to be vigilant in checking that these associations are real. Please be aware that there are currently several faux organizations that claim to trade organizations that govern the cleaning industry. In a few cases, individuals have created these faux organizations for personal gain and advertising. Though some may look impressive and have nice graphics and logos they have little or no authority and leave potential property owners in jeopardy of possibly hiring an inexperienced, untrained and uninsured contractor.
Exterior and roof cleaning is also a dangerous trade. Every year several people fall from roofs or ladders and die. Roof cleaning is arguably the most dangerous service that is provided on your home. In the roof cleaning industry, injuries are common due to the unregulated nature of the service. In fact, most roof cleaning companies gross less than $150,000.00 a year and are not required to adhere to common laws and regulatory agencies. Companies that make less than $250,000.00 per year are not required to adhere to federal wage and hour standards and do not have to pay their employees overtime. In fact, safety is a real concern because companies who make less than $250,000.00 a year are not governed by O.S.H.A. as well. Companies that have 3 or fewer employees do not have to have workers compensation insurance in many states. Most of these small contractors fly under the radar of compliance and when an accident happens, you the homeowner are left holding the bill.
Workers comp is an important insurance that many states require for protecting employees in the event of a worksite injury. It covers the employee’s medical bills, lost time from work as well as education and/or retraining in the event the injury leaves them unable to perform their vocation. It is a costly insurance that protects not only the insured company but the property owner from accident liability as well. Some states allow a common loophole to comply with this insurance requirement. This is called a workers comp exemption. Smaller companies are permitted to purchase a minimum workers compensation policy then exempt as many as 3 employees from the policy. These employees payroll is exempt and therefore they are not covered by that worker’s comp policy. This is a common practice for companies trying to garnish commercial projects that require workers comp insurance. However, in many cases, the person who comes out to perform the roof cleaning may be one of the exempted employees. In this situation, the person who is cleaning your property may not be covered
by workers comp insurance.
By now you are asking what can I do to ensure that I am hiring a true professional within this or any home & property services industry? We have created this simple check-list to help the property owner pick the right professional for your project.
1. Simply, how do they look!
Do they look professional? Are they in uniform? Are they using a quote form or invoice? Does their vehicle look professional?
2. Ask for a copy of their local occupational license.
Some areas of the country do not call these occupational licenses. Simply, these are a business tax and a registration of the company. Some areas of the country call these DBAs or Doing Business As. These are registrations of the individual or sole proprietorship registered under a business name.
3. Ask for a copy of their insurance certificate.
Make sure they have at least $500,000.00 in Liability Insurance, $500,000.00 in Commercial Auto Insurance and Workers Comp. Make sure the certificate has the insurance agent’s name on. Call the agent and check to see if the policy is still active. Have a certificate issued in your name and e-mailed or regular mailed to you for your records.
4. Get a list of references.
Make sure the company has pleased customers.
5. Do a web search on the company.
In a search engine use the keywords fraud, warning, consumer alert and the name of the company. Like this example… Superior Shine Consumer Alert. Look for a preponderance of bad
customer service reports.
6. Call the local Better Business Bureau.
Are they members or at least have a clean file with the BBB?
7. Do they offer a warranty?
Does this company stand behind their work? If they have a five-year roof washing warranty, have they been in business at least as long as the warranty period. Example: It looks suspicious if a company that has been in business one year has a five-year warranty. Also, remember the warranty is only worth the paper it is written on. Does the company look like it is going to be around for the next five years?
8. What training have they received and are they certified?
Has the company or individual you are hiring gone through any special training by a third party? What is the background on that third party? Can you view the curriculum and what steps were taken in certifying that company or individual?
9. Is the company a member of a REAL trade association?
Remember with the advent of the internet faux organizations are rampant. Make sure there is a phone number and office for the association and that it is a real 501c3. Does the association
have officers and who are the officers? Does the association hold its members accountable for professional standards and practices?
10. What system do they use to clean your property and roof?
Finally, after making sure you have not hired an uninsured, unlicensed, felon, stalker, etc., ask yourself if you believe they clean your home’s exterior and roof without damaging the surfaces. Look the contractor in the eye and you will get a good feel as he or she explains their process if they believe in it or not. Don’t be afraid to ask for a free demonstration, a reputable
professional will honestly be very excited to show you what they can do.
We hope this page helps you make an informed decision on how to hire a roof cleaning contractor. Like any industry, a few bad apples can ruin the bunch. There are MANY reputable professionals out there to choose from. Just remember that compliance costs money and often true professionals will be as much as 30% more in cost to have this service done. That means on a $500.00 roof cleaning, a Pro may be $650.-$850. for the same cleaning. The protections you are afforded for the extra $200.00 far out weighs the exposure you may face by hiring a less qualified contractor. Remember, your choice to hire the professional is you rewarding them for taking the high road and obeying the law.
This document has not been created as a marketing gimmick or to create sales pressure based in fear. It is simply to make you the home owner aware of the potential pit falls associated with hiring non-compliant contractors / companies and to educate you regarding processes and procedures. Additionally, we wish to impart to you that compliance costs and although compliant companies generally charge a bit more than non-compliant companies, it’s always better to go with the former rather than the latter. Also, we thought it was prudent to let you know of the expenses associated with providing you with safe and compliance-based services. Thank you.