Are you paying your housekeeper enough?

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By Teri Karush Rogers  |
March 16, 2010 - 7:08AM

Along with how much to tip a doorman at the holidays, many NYC apartment dwellers are not quite clear about whether they're paying their housekeepers enough, too much or too little.

Most independent housekeepers (versus cleaning services) quote a flat rate that varies by apartment size and the amount of work involved.  

That rate works out to be around $15-20 per hour, with three hours being about the minimum amount of time necessary to clean a one-bedroom apartment well.  Larger apartments typically require 4-8 hours.  

That's the big picture -- but here's some other inside-baseball intelligence on NYC housekeepers that you may find useful:

  • Many housekeepers will quote a lower per-visit rate if you hire them weekly instead of every other week, on the theory that the more time between visits, the more work will be required.
  • It’s pretty common (and decent) to pay your housekeeper when you go on vacation.  If the thought of paying something for nothing irks you, assign your housekeeper a special project to tackle while you are away, like a thorough cleaning of baseboard moldings or straightening out your closets.
  • Getting too entangled with your housekeeper’s personal life may prove detrimental to your relationship, as it can make it harder to correct slipping performance.  However, some employers do get pretty involved: Some report making emergency loans and helping out with everything from obtaining a visa for an emigrant fiancé to renegotiating a housekeeper’s fraudulent mortgage.
  • Some employers provide lunch and give birthday gifts, though it’s not commonplace.  Some housekeepers grocery shop, though that’s not common either.
  • Most housekeepers don’t do windows, and some refuse to iron. Others won't climb ladders or chairs to clean higher-up things, because they typically have no health insurance and may be unable to work in the event of a nasty spill.
  • If a new housekeeper proposes a flat rate, don’t assume it includes laundry beyond sheets and towels.
  • You may need to pay a little more if you live in a walk-up and your laundry room is in the basement.
  • It’s better if you bring up the topic of raises once a year than if you leave it to your housekeeper to broach. Many New Yorkers give raises in ATM-friendly $20 increments, though not necessarily every year. Raises can be linked to additional duties.
  • Holiday tipping is the norm. Most people give the amount the housekeeper charges per visit.
  • If you don’t have a doorman but do have double locks, give your housekeeper the key to one lock only and leave the other one unlocked if you’re not home on the appointed day.
  • Most people don’t, but you are liable for Social Security and Medicare taxes if you pay your housekeeper more than $1,700 a year. You are also supposed to fork over federal unemployment tax if you pay your housekeeper more than $1,000 in any quarter. (See IRS guidelines.)   You may also owe New York state  taxes.
  • The best way to find a housekeeper is word of mouth: Email your friends, put a request on your office intranet, the BrickUnderground forum, etc.  Check references: Honesty is as important as a good work ethic.

Related posts on tipping:

The Big Ask: Cashing in on holiday tipping

1st Annual BrickUnderground Guide to Holiday Tipping

Yes, Virginia, we keep lists too

Tipping the mailman

Co-op bans holiday tipping

Stiffed again! Doorman blasts bad tippers


Teri Rogers Headshot - Floral

Teri Karush Rogers

Founder & Publisher

Founder and publisher Teri Karush Rogers launched Brick Underground in 2009. As a freelance journalist, she had previously covered New York City real estate for The New York Times. Teri has been featured as an expert on New York City residential real estate by The New York Times, New York Daily News, amNew York, NBC Nightly News, The Real Deal, Business Insider, the Huffington Post, and NY1 News, among others. Teri earned a BA in journalism and a law degree from New York University.

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