Farming Across Cultures Communication Program
Employee Housing Materials
Employee housing oversight is a challenging job for employers but a necessary one. Housing is offered as a part of an employee's compensation. As such, it is important that the house be in a suitable living condition when a new employee enters the home. Before a new employee arrives at employee housing make sure house is in the condition you expect the employee to upkeep during his/her employment. A new employee that arrives to shared housing with dishes piled up in the sink, food on the floor, and stacks of garbage in the entry way will think that this is acceptable for him.
Employee housing like any rental unit has to comply with state rental housing codes. This requires the landlord, in this case the employer, "to provide and maintain premises that are safe, clean and fit for human habitation and in compliance with applicable housing codes. Any problems affecting health or safety in a rental unit is usually a violation of this warranty" Renting in Vermont, Vermont Tenants. You can explore the Vermont Rental Housing Code here. Also useful in understanding landlord and tenant responsibilities is the Renting in Vermont Handbook written by the Vermont Tenants, found here.
- Inspection Checklist [English & Spanish]
House inspection: When a new employee moves into employee housing it is recommended that a house inspection be done with the new employee to identify any concerns with the housing unit and provided appliances at that time. Inspection Checklist [English & Spanish]. Schedule regular inspections (at least monthly) to ensure house is being maintained properly. The inspections should be done together with the employee(s) and maintenance and sanitation concerns discussed as they are discovered.
Security Deposit: Though not a common practice, employers can and probably should require a security deposit to cover any costs of maintenance beyond "normal wear and tear", unpaid utility bills, or expenses associated with removal of belongings left by the employee upon departure.
House upkeep and maintenance expectations should be explained to each new employee to ensure complete understanding of what the employee responsibilities are in terms of house upkeep. Ensure each employee knows how to use appliances and cleaning supplies. Remember that many of the Latino employees are coming from different living standards and cultural norms. Appliances and cleaning supplies in the U.S. are different and even those employees living in the U.S. for some time may not ever receive instruction on their uses. Young men generally do not participate in cleaning or cooking in Mexico and Central America.
A tool to review recommendations about how to ensure a safe and health home can be found here: House Sanitation Checklist [English & Spanish]. An accompanying document provides detailed information pertaining to each line on the checklist: House Sanitation and Upkeep [English] Saneamiento y Mantenimiento del Hogar [Spanish]
Safety: Review housing safety issues (smoke detector, unblocked exits, safety hazards, leaving stove on etc) Post and review emergency numbers in an obvious place near the phone. Explain who to call in the case of an emergency or housing concern.
- List of Cleaning Products [English & Spanish]
Cleaning products and appliances: The employer should explain which, if any, cleaning appliances are included in the housing unit. While the purchase of cleaning products is generally the employee's responsibility, the employer can help identify cleaning products that the employee may want to purchase to help with house cleanliness.
Rodent and insect infestation: An increasingly common concern in farm employee housing in Vermont is the presence of cockroaches and bedbugs. When the problem first presents itself, there are avenues for pest control and elimination, some of which are detailed in these informational handouts. It is important to clarify with the occupants of your housing their responsibilities related to rodent and insect infestations.
"Occupant Responsibilities. The occupant of each dwelling unit shall maintain that part of the dwelling he or she exclusively occupies free from rodent and insect infestation and shall be responsible for extermination when the infestation is caused by his or her failure to maintain the dwelling unit except as provided for in Section IV, A(3)."
~Rental Housing Health Code, State of Vermont, Department of Health.
Farm Housing Statute: While the majority of housing rental laws apply to farm employee housing as well there are some farm housing specific statues that are important for employers to know. For example, regulations related to the termination of housing benefits as a result of termination of employment are explained in detail here [English].
Last modified October 12 2011 02:40 PM