What do you do when your part-time super isn't doing enough for your building? That's the dilemma faced by the seven-member board of a 24-unit co-op on the Upper West Side, where the super, who works two jobs to make ends meet, isn't meeting the needs of the building.
The part-time super is not keeping the building clean enough, says a board member, and he is annoying the residents with quality-of-life issues, such as taking the garbage out at night and “banging the cans.” While the board has worried about how to approach the super to get him to mend his ways, the super, in turn, is walking around “with a sense of entitlement,” seethes the director. How can the board bring the super into line, and establish clear lines of authority? After all, who is the boss and who the employee?
It's a difficult tightrope to walk, admits Peter Grech, president of the Superintendents Technical Association and a super himself at a 350-unit building in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan. The board should always clearly be sending the message, “I'm the boss. We pay you. You do it our way or look elsewhere,” explains Grech. That said, there is often more nuance in communications between the board and the super, and the board members also need to remember that. “If they are self-managing, they need to put themselves in the super's shoes and need to be telling themselves, 'If I were him, I'd have to do all this cleaning, all this trash, the recycling,' and that can take a long time,” says Grech. For the relationship to work constructively, “the super needs to be aware of the board's needs and the board needs to be aware of what the super is doing.” There is a happy medium that can be found, but it's not acceptable for the super to say, 'It's always been done this way.'”
So, what is the answer for a building, self-managed or not, that is dealing with a part-timer who doesn't seem to be getting the job done? There are several steps, notes David Goodman, director of business development at Tudor Realty. The first is to go over the super's list of responsibilities, and see if that matches the requirements of the building: cleaning the lobby every day, sweeping the hallways, wiping down the glass, washing/sweeping the stairs at least once or twice a month, keeping the boiler running, and taking out the trash and garbage each week. Then the board should determine how many hours it takes for the part-time super to do the work, and calculate the salary the board is paying him on the basis of that. About $15 to $20 an hour is average, says Grech; $20.94 an hour is union scale, says Goodman. As a director of the Superintendents Technical Association, Grech offers his services to boards: he has often made trips to co-ops around the city to assess how the building operates, how many hours per week are needed to keep the building well-maintained, and how much the board should be paying the super.
How much can a building expect to pay? The range is all over the lot, says Matthew Nerzig, the director of communications for SEIU 32BJ, the building workers union, but the range for small buildings runs from $310 a week for a part-time super to $979 a week for a full-time super, and then increases if it is a large building that is a member of the Realty Advisory Board. In that instance, says Nerzig, pay scales range from $400 to $1,664 a week.
If board members are willing to be flexible and creative, they can think themselves around the problem of a part-time super who isn't up to par. At a 25-unit co-op on the East Side, the board members were fed up with a young superintendent, who worked a second job and never seemed to be around to get the job done, recalls Goodman. The part-time super “would go out and party [or] he was at work all day [away from the co-op] and something would come up and he wasn't home.” Finally, Goodman stepped in when the board complained and asked a local handyman in a neighboring building, also managed by Tudor, if he wanted to help out. The handyman agreed, and a deal was struck.
The board fired the part-time super, hired the handyman as the new part-timer, and gave him the former super's apartment. Because the handyman-turned-super is married, his wife would pick up the slack when the handyman would be at the neighboring property. The arrangement has worked out well for all affected, says Goodman. It “provides almost full-time coverage for the building,” says Goodman. “The spouse can take and make emergency calls, allow repairmen into the building, and accept deliveries for residents.” And because the East Side co-op is small, “there are few expectations for the super beyond [cleaning] and keeping the boiler running.”
Calling in back-up for a place running on a part-time super's work schedule is always a good idea. If the building is self-managed, one of the board members should be assigned to know all the critical phone numbers in case of emergency: the name of a good plumber, boiler operator, and oil supplier. At the same time, even if the part-timer is working as hard as he can, if he doesn't live in the building, the board should be paying another, local super or handyman, as back-up, ready to pick up the slack. In that case, the board needs to call the super into a meeting, go over his job duties, diplomatically, and decide whether it's time to increase his hours and salary or fire him and get another part-timer.
Boards also need to recognize when it comes time to pay for the services of a full-time super, observes Goodman. That's what a Tudor-managed 32-unit condo finally did, when its old super left and the board made the position full-time. It found a new super with good credentials and levied a 12 percent maintenance increase to pay for his salary. The residents are reportedly very pleased with the change.
Boards looking for help in setting expectations for their part-time or full-time supers can contact the Superintendents Technical Association at www.nysupersclub.org and post questions. Grech says he is available to make visits to co-ops and condos to assess what should be reasonably expected of a full-time and/or part-time super. To contact Grech, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.