Do Window Cleaners Need to Have Insurance?

Is General Liability Insurance Really That Important?

I would venture to say that few individuals or companies get excited when the subject of insurance is brought up. Probably 99% of the exceptions are those who work in the insurance industry. How many things in this world do you love having when it helps you and hate paying for because it may never be called upon to help you? Add to this strange mix the fact that insurance, by and large, gets more and more expensive here in the US. And that ever-so-small, yet present fear, that you won’t be covered when you expect to be covered. It can be at least a small nagging concern.

For window cleaning companies, is general liability insurance necessary by law or on a case-by-case basis? Is it even necessary at all?

What is General Liability Insurance Designed to Do?

In short, general liability insurance as it would apply to window cleaning, covers bodily injury and property damage. There are other details that apply to most any business that are of a less physical nature, such as things spoken by owners or employees. A caveat will be discussed later in the article that can make it a bit more ‘exciting’, shall we say.

With just those subjects listed, it sure seems that any business that is serious about being successful over the long haul and is not simply taking everything a day at a time, would recognize the importance of paying a premium to be protected if an accident to property or person occurs. At the very least, it may well help a business owner who is insured this way to sleep better at night. For contractors who are adequately insured for most any occurrence a COI (certificate of insurance) may be viewed as a “badge of honor”, at least early on. This forward step for a new company may be looked at as bragging rights, fodder for marketing and such. By the same token, an inquisitive customer will likely feel much more at ease knowing a window cleaning outfit that will be on the premises will make good on any accidents by virtue of  its coverage. You might say that carrying GL insurance is often a right to proceed, when it comes to landing jobs. Sometimes homeowners will verbally require proof of insurance, and even more often commercial establishments will only conduct business with a contractor who is insured for property and personal damage, among other things.

When a contractor hires a subcontractor, new possibilities come into play. While it is not set in concrete that a subcontractor must carry liability insurance, the hiring contractor faces the danger of being responsible for property or personal damage caused by the subcontractor. Additionally, if an employee of the sub files a worker’s compensation claim and the sub is not carrying that type of insurance, the hiring contractor will be responsible by law to pay for that as well. Those scenarios are not pleasant ones to contemplate.

Is it a Logical Choice For Window Cleaners to Carry Liability Insurance?

From the preceding paragraphs, there is strong evidence that it is indeed logical to be insured for potential damage. No, it’s not generally a MUST in a legal senseanywhere in the US, but where licenses are required to conduct business in a specific trade it may well be a legal requirement. Be that as it may, I feel that when a contractor carries liability insurance and commercial auto insurance, it is a sign that he is genuinely interested in doing things safely and correctly for the long haul.

Here is the caveat I alluded to earlier. Do not assume that general liability will protect you from EVERY type of damage you cause while carrying on your work. I got slapped in the face with this fact many years ago. There is a term in the insurance world called ‘care, custody, and control’. This comes into play when you as a worker damage something you are handling or overseeing. Here is how Insureon describes this exclusion of coverage.

Next are a couple anecdotes relating to how I got burned by my lack of due diligence. If you want to skip over these, scroll down to the subheading “What Insurance is the Most Useful For Window Cleaning Companies?”

My slaps in the face came from believing I was covered for anything that happened while my team was on the job, not including gross negligence. It was my fault for not investigating. I was just excited during the years I had no occurrences when I could say confidently that I have insurance.
On one occasion, one of my employees moved a bench away from a plate glass window. Unfortunately there was a gap between the tile floor and the glass itself, one wide enough for a foot of the bench to get caught in. The large piece of glass shattered when the corner of the bench banged into it. I figured I would be paying my deductible and that’s it. I was informed by the man from this particular carrier that this would not be covered due to the fact that ‘we were intending to clean that window’. Not a pleasant revelation. Needless to say, I brought my concerns to the agency I was using at the time for liability insurance and asked if they could find coverage that would protect me if something similar happened in the future. The agent said “you should be covered”. In this context, she meant “I’m pretty sure you are covered”, not “I feel it’s only right you are covered”.
Well, that didn’t pan out. Later in that year of having that particular policy I was tilting in a window so I could clean the outside from the inside. For whatever reason, I put too much stress on the sash and this caused the glass to form a large crack. Again, I found out that since I was handling the window, literally, this damage would not be covered by my policy.
Thankfully, I finally learned the valuable lesson that I need to find an agency that specializes in insuring contractors in fields such as the one I am engaged in. The agency I used had great personnel, but they just didn’t have the specific direction I needed.

I found an amazing agency whom I used for around 10 years until recently. They changed direction and I just recently found one that can serve my current needs. There were a few incidents along the lines of the ones I described, 2 of them frivolous, and my policy still had me covered. The additional coverage is what is called Inland Marine Insurance. It protects the insured when there is property damage to non-structural items that are under their care, custody, and control.

What Insurance is the Most Useful for Window Cleaning Companies?

As I wrote early on in this article, there is a certain peace of mind that contractors have when properly insured as it pertains to their services. And peace of mind is passed on to paying customers as well. That is arguably even more important. The types of insurance, then, that window cleaning, pressure washing, gutter cleaning companies and similar ones are wise to carry are as follows:

General Liability- covers bodily and property injury while a contractor’s team is on the jobsite.

Marine Inland or similar- covers damage to items that are under the care, custody, and control of the contractor. It could include broken windows or scratched floors resulting from moving furniture.

Commercial Auto- covers the contractor and his employees as regards financial responsibility if they are to blame for an accident while in a vehicle under the coverage.

Worker’s Compensation- covers payment for employee’s medical expenses and wage loss benefits if a work-related injury or sickness occurs, until the employee is able to return to work.

Something slightly different than actual insurance is a Surety Bond- This is more directly for the sake of protecting the customer. It’s a guarantee that the party who is receiving a service or product gets compensated no matter what. Here is an article I feel explains this well.

The conclusion?

There is a certain measure of professionality when a window cleaning company carries the necessary insurance to pay for damage or injury that does not involve gross negligence. I can recall back in the late 1980’s and into the mid-1990’s when I went back and forth about paying for insurance.

Yes, I was short-sighted and viewing it more as a liability to me than a worthwhile protection. I couldn’t land or maintain some accounts due to lack of insurance. The term that window cleaners often use, admittedly in a disparaging way, but also to indicate the low level of seriousness, is ‘Bucket Bob’. It is similar to what general contractors call ‘Chuck in a Truck’. Besides the fact that a new company would be smart in the planning stages to plan on having insurance right away, some just need a bit of helpful advice.

If you are searching for a company to perform cleaning services on your property, you are well within your rights, and honestly making a good decision to ensure your interests will be protected in the case of damage or injury. No, it is not a state law in Pennsylvania. It is, though, a better option than being uninsured. In my time running a window cleaning company, any customers who have asked me to provide proof of insurance have been nothing but tactful and professional about it.

On occasion, I subcontract out some work. All subcontractors who are in my circle furnish proof of general liability insurance. This works out very well for all parties involved.

If you are a homeowner or commercial property manager, please consider these points.

Happy ‘shopping’!


If you have any questions or want to discuss this subject you can email me at
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