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Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Side Jobs: Who’s Responsible?

Novitt, Sahr & Snow
Seth Sahr, Partner


In larger complexes with several full-time staff members (supers, porters, etc.) it is quite common for the staff members to pick up extra income on the side by doing work for shareholders. While this has its benefits (makes for a happier staff, gives residents easy access to reasonably priced labor that they can trust), if it is not properly monitored and supervised, it can lead to all kinds of trouble. In one co-op, a super took on a side job for a homeowner replacing a radiator. One June, several years back, the super removed the radiator and ordered a new one for the shareholder. Probably believing that the new radiator would arrive long before the heating season commenced, he did not cap the radiator pipe. The shareholder paid the super for the project. They were also doing a larger renovation and thus not residing in the unit. Unfortunately, the heating season arrived before the radiator, and the apartment suffered severe steam damage from the uncapped pipe. The co-op took the position that, since it was a private, side job, this was not the building’s problem. The shareholder did not get enough money from his own insurance carrier and sued.

Legal Lesson

It is important that board and management keep tighter controls over staff performing outside work (or just prohibit it outright). Staff members doing work on their off hours should be required to carry their own insurance, the same as any other vendor coming into the building. Shareholders and unit-owners should be put on notice that they will have to sign an indemnity-type agreement to the community in the event they use building staff. It must be made clear (and put in writing) who the staff member is working for so that if things go wrong in situations like this, the building’s exposure is limited or eliminated.

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