After so many warnings and tragedies, many companies are still hire contractors without performing background checks. Although there are some local laws in many states, there is currently no federal mandate requiring background checks for service related companies or in-home workers. This recent piece by “The Today Show” is a consumer warning, interviewing several people who are pursuing tougher legislation to prevent felons from coming into homes.
The responsibility for these tragic events is complex. Is it the responsibility of the federal government to mandate consumer safety or should this remain on the state level? Is it the responsibility of the company to hire only safe contractors or is this just another example of buyer beware? With no federal laws in place, how can we the consumer best take precautions when we have someone we don’t know in our home?
On the Today Show, they advise consumers to always ask the in-home service company “Do you perform background checks?” when you are considering hiring them. That is very wise, but I’d take it even further by asking “How far back do you look when screening your contractors?” and “What is your policy on criminal records?” and “How long have you been performing background checks?” Make it known that if this company wants your business they had better care about your personal safety and be ready to answer these kinds of questions. I would also advise every consumer to ask the service company who is it they should be expecting to come to their home when the service occurs, and then when the doorbell rings check their identification and be sure it is who you were expecting.
On the Today Show they also advise that consumers arrange to not be alone when the contractor arrives or call someone in front of the contractor to convey that a friend knows they are in the house. This is also good advice, but again I would take it further and get a copy of their identification with your phone and send it to a friend so that there is documentation, and if anything happens to you, they will know where to look.
As consumers we have a lot more power than we think. If demand is raised for stricter security with in-home service companies, those companies will find a way to meet that demand or slowly go out of business. That’s the beauty of supply and demand, but it is up to us, the consumer, to demand better and hold companies accountable.
A contrasting point of view:
The government, both statewide and federal mandate many things for our safety already. It should become the responsibility of the government to make sure that the service people that go into anyone’s house has had their background checked. Regulation starts at the top and should be mandatory to receive licensure for anyone that comes in contact with volatile chemicals on a regular basis. Many state governing boards already have certain technicians and service people who handle certain chemicals background-checked to receive and renew their licenses regularly. What’s the problem with mandating even more industries?
As consumers, we look to the government to make sure that the people we entrust to build our communities, run our healthcare system, and even transport our children on a daily basis be regulated and checked to make sure they have the proper clearance and authorization to do their job to the best of their ability. Background checks are a part of daily life for a lot of these positions, as they should be, as they hold many people’s lives in their hands. Many licenses need to be clear of criminal records for reasons that many of us are very cognizant of, but does knowing this relinquish responsibility of the consumer to make sure that the contractor entering their home is properly scrutinized by the proper governing authorities?
If the state government regulated home service contractors, a lot of the responsibility would fall on contracting companies to make sure their employees meet all of the requirements for the position they hold and would make everyone feel safer. With regulation comes a standard that everyone is held to and is constant throughout the state.
What do you think?