Whether it’s a home or business, there is always the need for cleaning. There’s no getting around general day-to-day mess and dirt collecting, and the need to react to those messy happenings – whether it’s a quick whizz round with a vacuum cleaner and duster, or a deep-clean and specialised clean such as window cleaning. There’s also special circumstances, like an end-of-tenancy and after-an-event clean, as well as unique areas like a kitchen or bathroom clean.
It tends to be more your internal areas like occupied places, communal entrance areas, and bacteria-infested areas like toilets and kitchen areas. External areas can be included but generally involve other skill sets whether from a landscaper or gardener keeping outside areas swept and clear, or a pest control company clearing up debris and mess from rodents and pigeons, or handymen for more maintenance tasks.
Within property management, the focus also tends to be the communal areas based upon the principle that occupied and tenanted areas will often be their own responsibility, leaving any shared accesses the responsibility of any managing agent or landlord. Even these occupied areas need to be checked though, ensuring that the property is literally being kept ship-shape, that no risks are evolving like excessive rubbish and fire hazards, and making sure the liability of any individual cleaner is clarified.
Cleaning is also very illusive, in that when it is procured well then unfortunately no one tends to notice. Areas look well, and no liabilities surface, and therefore things are taken for granted. This is actually a good compliment for any cleaner, that it simply happens well behind the scenes and causes no fuss or complaints – a job well done.
However, when things are not done correctly, matters can go pear-shaped. Things are spotted and complaints made, and seemingly trivial issues can soon escalate. Bring into that any claim and refusal of payments, and you can soon have big problems emerging.
Therefore understanding the role of cleaning is important, even if this is outsourced to a cleaning company. Here are a few thoughts related to property management, in particular the first ones looking more at the theory and compliance side of things, and the second more practical tips on how it can work well at a property, no matter what the context is.
10 Principles of Cleaning Compliance
Here then are ten core principles of getting the cleaning service compliant and correct:
1. Insurance Cover
Make sure that everybody’s covered, both the actual cleaner and their company, and the building insurance itself. The important one is Public Liability to cover any harm and damage to people, but Employers Liability can also help with a team of cleaners.
Make sure you see the actual certificate proving cover, and it has all the correct information and data noted on it.
2. COSHH and Health & Safety Policy
These are the nuts and bolt of how cleaning is being carried out. A Health & Safety Policy is a more general statement by the business of how they operate a safe business, and applies to all other businesses generally, including issues like Lone Working, Data Protection, and dealing with any complaints and issues.
The ‘COSHH Policy’, often pronounced as ‘cosh’, refers to more specific obligations for cleaning activities under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 – because you’re using potentially hazardous substances and activities, and the focus is on employers (in a general sense) managing these safely, whether that’s storing items properly, using them in a certain way, or dealing with any emergency spillages.
3. Data Sheets
These are a summary of a particular cleaning substance with both technical data on what chemicals are included, and any practical ways you need to deal with it. Whilst you can collate information from labels on bottles and standard Data Sheets from the manufacturer, these need to be presented correctly and in an understandable way, after all they should be a handy point of reference that cleaners can use practically.
Short for Personal Protective Equipment, this boils down to cleaners wearing the right and safe gear, whether that’s gloves, aprons, or unique items like hair ties.
The focus is keeping the cleaner themselves safe just as much as others around them, with general legislation applicable like The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002.
An abbreviation for Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 where there is an obligation for everyone in the workplace to report any serious accidents, illnesses, and even deaths to a responsible person.
This is separate to any usual procedures such as calling emergency services, applying First Aid, and completing the Accident Book – it’s a separate obligation to report as soon as practical.
6. Risk Assessments
These are of course applicable for all forms of works, not just cleaning, and a way to practically apply any health and safety obligations to real life. So potential risks and problems need identifying, consequences need understanding, and then actions implementing to eliminate or reduce these hazards.
The earlier Health & Safety Policy and COSHH Policy will influence this, and can include additional and separate information on specific issues such as Lone Working and Work at Height.
7. Property Procedures
Whatever general guides and procedures exist for those using a property, these need communicating to cleaners. Classic ones are to do with Fire Evacuation Procedures and security arrangements, and making sure these are appropriately applied and developed for the cleaning activities at hand.
So as an example, cleaners may need to make sure all fire escape routes are always cleared, fire doors not wedged open, and clear procedures provided for how they access the building out of hours.
8. Cleaning Schedules
You might also hear of references to instructions, guides, and summaries; they boil down to clear references to what a cleaner actually needs to clean and how they do it. Ideally there needs to be a list of each task, descriptions and help on how to do, a ways to report any issues, and then a way to log successful completion at whatever times and dates.
Linked to this is the need for training, whether initial induction or ongoing re-training, and an effective way to communicate both this and all the other issues that a cleaner needs to be aware of.
9. Notices & Signs
These clearly highlight areas of potential harm from cleaning, whether that’s a permanent warning on the cleaning cupboard, or a flip floor sign that you place to warn over a freshly-mopped floor.
Make sure these are helpful, clearly let across the message, and removed when not needed before people begin taking them for granted.
10. Additional Requirements
Being aware of going the extra mile is essential, whether that’s reacting to an emergency and providing things like emergency spill kits and procedures, or separate obligations and even other specialists for unique forms of cleaning such as Food Hygiene requirements in kitchen and food preparation areas, and dealing with rodents and animal remains and mess.
10 Practical Cleaning Pointers
Okay, so now down to some practical tips and tricks on how to make sure cleaning effectively happens as part of a property management service:
1. Formal Communication
So all of the above compliance issues will boil down to a series of documents needing to be right from the outset, and effectively used on an ongoing basis. Whether that's a policy relevant to that property and circumstance and reflecting an actual assessment of it, not just taken from a template, or the Cleaning Schedule or Summary is completed by the cleaner every visit and any issues noted
2. Informal Communication
So always remember that cleaning is doing a real service that is very evident - if it hasn't been completed correctly for whatever reason then it can have a detrimental effect on the whole property. This can end up causing a series of complaints, often just over small things, whether that's a spot missed, or additional mess that’s since occurred.
Therefore keep the dialogue open, with the cleaner quickly reporting any issues to the right person, and in the right way, for example a simple photo of the area then sent by email or text message. Likewise if a property manager has a query, know if they contact the actual cleaner or their representative to resolve as soon as possible.
Firstly, get the right amount understood, whether a regular fixed amount or depending upon time involved, and factoring those extras times and cleaning items needed. Any future wage increases by choice or through minimum wage legislation also need to be factored in.
Secondly, clarify how this is paid, for example every month by invoice, and if this averages out to the same amount every month irrespective of whether there are four or five weeks in any particular month.
Linked to the first point on formal communication, is the need to get all your documentation then clearly stored somewhere. That may be in a file on site, or in an office, and any relevant digital copies and online storage. Make sure it's practically easy to hand and understandable.
Work out where all the cleaning equipment, substances, and PPE will be stored. This may be all brought on site by the cleaner in which case they need to be responsible for it, whereas if on site then ensure it is safe, locked, and with signed-up storage cupboards away from other non-cleaning items, not being mixed with other people's cleaning items.
It's worth a particular mention as probably one of the most controversial cleaning substances. On one side, it's generally not liked because of its potential harm, but on another it's still a very good substance to use. Whichever way is chosen, stick with it and make sure everybody knows about it.
7. Property Issues
In addition to the cleaner taking note of issues on site like blocked fire escapes and the fire evacuation procedure, remember that cleaners are often the most regular person on sites sometimes and so can help spot things. Whether that's a repair needed, or an occupier problem, they can help provide essential feedback.
8. Different Areas
A common problem is where a cleaner is instructed by a landlord for a common area, but they end up also cleaning other tenanted areas, whether that's just being helpful or for a separate payment by the tenant. That can end up being helpful in reality, but make sure the basis is clear and documented as technically it will be on behalf of someone else.
As cleaners tend to be at properties when no one else is, and needing access to all kinds of areas, then access arrangements need to be clear. All forms of codes, keys, fobs, and swipe cards need keeping and effectively collecting by them and logging.
This is a classic, both rubbish generated from the clean but also other people's rubbish hanging around. Make sure this is placed in the right area, any recycle items are processed correctly, they are correctly bagged or stashed away, and any additional items dealt with.
Cleaning Up Your Act
Arranging cleaning at a property is actually one of the most important and visually-effective services you can provide, which is undetected when all goes well but causes issues when it doesn’t. Therefore when you are looking to organise and improve, it’s actually worth going in reverse order of the theory and then practice pointers above.
So first get the practical things resolved – what you need doing, in what areas, who is responsible, the cost implications, and then the practical issues and liaisons with other property interests. Then look at the theory, and begin making sure that boxes are ticked, safe procedures are in place, and plans exist to deal with any emergencies. Things are then set to get effectively cleaned up.