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How to Pay a House Sitter

While determining how much to pay a house sitter may seem like a straightforward task, there are actually some important things you’ll want to consider prior to making your desired house sitter an offer.

When is a House Sitter an Employee?

While many people believe that an employee/employer relationship is established based on the amount of wages paid out, that’s simply not the case.  According to Kathy Webb of HomeWork Solutions, a household payroll and tax expert, the job functions of a house sitter can determine if an employee/employer relationship exists between a homeowner and a house sitter. “If the house sitter is a caretaker  who lives in an unoccupied seasonal home, handles the property maintenance and keeps everything ready for a principle to show up, for example, they are in fact an employee of the home owner.”

If an employer / employee relationship is established, it’s important to know that house sitters, like many other domestic workers, are considered non-exempt employees, and as such, are protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA, house sitters are entitled to receive at least minimum wage for each hour worked and may also be entitled to an overtime differential for all hours worked over 40 in a 7-day period. Since most house sitters aren’t employed 24/7, however, they are simply paid for a set number of hours each week, according to Webb.

When is a House Sitter Not an Employee?

Have you asked a neighbor to check on your house, bring in your mail and turn the outside lights on while you’re away? Cooked up an arrangement to let someone live rent-free in exchange for monitoring your property? Hired a college kid to swing by your residence twice a day?

If so, you’ve engaged in a casual house sitting arrangement and your house sitter is not likely an employee – unless you’re paying out more than the annual wage threshold for services ($1800 for 2012).

With casual house sitting arrangements, unless more than the annual threshold is paid out in wages, there are no tax obligations for the home owner.

How Much to Pay a House Sitter

“Since house sitters typically go about their usual lives and just live in the subject home, most are simply paid a set hourly wage for a set number of hours per week” according to Webb. “If they’re also employed to care for the home when the employer is present, during those times they typically earn more.”

To determine how much to pay a house sitter:

  • Consider the going rate for house sitters in the area where the home is located. The going rate for house sitters can vary, depending on what geographical area the home is located in.
  • Consider the duties, responsibilities and tasks required of the house sitter.  A house sitter who is required to perform lawn maintenance or provide pet care is going to earn more than one that simply takes in the mail.
  • Consider the commitment. A house sitter who is living in the home as an employee will earn more than someone who drops by a few times per week to check in on the property.

In most cases, the average house sitting rate for live-in house sitters is $20 to $50 per day or more, although in some cases, it’s a simple swap – accommodations for house sitting.

For house sitters who simply stop by to take in the mail and water the plants, the going rate is $5 to $10 per day or more, depending on how long it takes to complete the house sitting tasks.

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