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Board Talk: The Super

DavidG: I am writing to request your thoughts, comments, and guidance on how you have handled staff issues. What are the responsibilities of a super? Our super is two years into his career here and came on strong. Over the last six months, his personal situation has changed – he is going through a divorce. At the same time, his performance has really dipped, and gone are the days [of] proactivity and open communication (e-mail, can be reached off hours). He informed the board about a fire department visit last year and steps to resolve potential issues, now we don’t hear about it until we receive a violation.

He also overlooks flagrant violations of the prop lease – which he claims he’s familiar with, having several years of co-op experience (like illegal renovations, security cameras in the hallway, fire department violations etc). Additionally, residents claim his presence is no longer felt, they ask if he’s okay, healthwise, etc.

The last six months he has delegated a good amount of the housekeeping to the porter, and it is now negatively affecting the quality of life of residents, i.e. trash is piling up, building is not as clean, and basic duties are neglected.

So I am not sure what his role is, or what his perception of a role is – this is a serious issue as we have roof breaches which he shrugs off, and a boiler outage in which he responded “the boiler has a mind of its own.”

I appreciate that our super answers to the managing agent – who happens to be the sponsor, and they have a great relationship, but basic repairs, and super functions as we know it are no longer getting done. So much for our efforts to bring items in-house. The last straw was when the board solicited ideas for a 10 percent reduction in energy bills, and his electric bill already high, went above $500 a month for the last two months.

It’s a bad situation, and I don’t want it to get worse. In my previous life, the super kept a log book, assisted in making the building nicer one small thing at a time. He no longer responds to calls, and no longer manages the vendor visits.

Brings me back to the question – what are the super’s responsibilities? And what are your thoughts on how to work this situation back to a win-win? Heating season is around the corner, and the board no longer trusts the super to maintain the system or for routine things to get done.


RLM: 1. The super is the employee of your co-op, not of your managing agent. Perhaps your managing agent supervises the super, and monitors his work ... but he’s an employee of the corporation.

2: Since your managing agent, the sponsor, supervises this employee, he/she is not doing the job if the conditions you cite are obvious.

3. You have the right to fire a super for nonperformance. Document everything clearly, including written warnings.

4. You have the right to hire a managing agent who will take those responsibilities seriously, “great relationship” notwithstanding.

5. Do you have clear, written job responsibilities?

6. Is this a union position?

7. The board needs to take unified action immediately.


RMM: I would think that you should first set up a meeting with your superintendent to try and find out what the so called issues are. Dialogue costs nothing. Based on the outcome of the meeting you can then decide on how to proceed.


HabitatReporter: Bram Fierstein, president, of Gramatan Management, offers advice: “Is the super a member of a union? If that is the case, then there is probably a very specific job description (sometimes known as the work rules) as well as a process for mediating disputes between the employer and employee. Typically, we have found that the union will be supportive of management/owners if they have specifically documented the superintendent’s lack of performance. Video documentation is great and often a byproduct of your security system.

If the employee is not in a union and not a member of a protected class then terminating his services should not be a problem in New York State. If the board is interested in trying to turn the super around then I would suggest that the managing agent write a job description with the board’s input. The agent and super then should meet and discuss your wants, needs, and goals. Set specific time frames in which the super needs to accomplish his daily assigned work. Set realistic time frames for projects outside the scope of daily responsibilities. Furthermore, the super should understand that his services may be terminated if his performance does not improve. It is best that all communication with the super be documented to protect the board and all shareholders against a wrongful termination lawsuit. In either case, it is probably best that you consult with a labor attorney.”

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