New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
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Can’t afford a full-time super? Here are some options.
A full-time super can be a luxury if your building is small enough – so what do you do?
Max Kay’s company is growing. The managing partner of the Brooklyn-based Mr. Super, Kay describes his agency as a “full-service mobile superintendent business.” Since its launch in 2014, Mr. Super has grown from a client base of 18 buildings to around 300, including rental properties.
And no wonder: demand for part-time supers – not quite a live-in superintendent, but more than a once-a-week porter – is growing. The reason is clear: financially, full-time supers don’t make sense for smaller co-ops and condos (luxury buildings aside). But buildings with fewer than 40 units still need someone to keep the property clean and take out the garbage. Many of these co-ops and condos have turned to the increasing number of agencies that provide super services.
When it comes to contracting with an outside agency, says Ray Smith, chief executive of Task Masters United, which specializes in superintendent services, one of the biggest selling points is the firm’s offer of 24-hour availability for emergencies. And because the workers are not employed by the building, the agency takes care of vacation coverage, workers compensation, taxes, and cleaning supplies, Smith adds that his superintendents are able to act more as building managers, rather than just as janitors. The company will typically submit a proposal for services after doing a walk-through of the property, finding out the board’s expectations and the limits of its budget. Services are billed monthly, and can range from a low of $50 up to $4,000, depending on the building’s size and the level of service required, Smith notes.
Dawn Dickstein, the president of MD2 Property Group, says that, in her experience, agency services usually cost between $800 and $1,300 a month. Task Masters United contracts are for one year but can be cancelled with one month’s notice. Most of the buildings they serve contain between 20 and 50 units.
The super services available from these agencies can include other staff and could require training for its employees. In addition to super services, for instance, Mr. Super also provides porters and handymen. “Each employee,” Kay notes, “goes through a two-day training program to know the city rules – sweeping rules, garbage rules.”
Contracts run for a year; fees are billed monthly, and include supplies. Mr. Super’s clients must, at minimum, sign a basic maintenance and upkeep contract, covering cleaning and sanitation. The company also offers repair services and snow removal for additional fees. Kay says there is a set rate for minor repairs.
Sometimes, boards specify that they want to see a single familiar face as their part-time super, says James Park, the owner of Spark Super, an agency that provides contracted super services. The agency is willing to accommodate such requests. Otherwise, they send whoever is available on the service dates. The company does recommend that “at least two people rotate on the building so there is someone to cover during vacations,” he says. The agency supplies clients with a set schedule, specifying what it is they’re supposed to do. Clients may terminate the arrangement at any time.
One of the more traditional approaches used by the super services to find supers for their clients – and one which boards can try to do on their own – is enlisting the off-hours services of a full-time super or other staff member from a larger building in the immediate neighborhood. “Most of the part-time supers are hired through a network of supers in the neighborhood that they can link up with,” says Park. “Say you live in a building with five apartments. You can’t afford to have a super live there. But next door, the building with 50 units has one. So you ask that super, can you clean, do the trash, etc.? And you pay them $100 a week or something like that.”
“The arrangements run the gamut – it could be someone who comes three days a week to do garbage and cleaning, or it could be a flexible schedule,” says Dickstein. “It’s catch-as-catch-can.”
But for all that variety, Kay, of Mr. Super, notes that there are tangible benefits to having a part-time super and a company that supplies him. “It offers boards more predictability than having some guy come in who will charge whatever he wants, with no guarantee that he will show up.
“With us,” he adds, “you always have someone to complain to.”
Finding a Super: Do It Yourself
If you don’t want to go to outside superintendent suppliers, but you still need to get someone to act as super, what are your choices?
Pamela DeLorme, the owner of Delkap Management, says she is seeing more small buildings hiring residents from within the property itself to handle super responsibilities. One building under her management hires an outside person to do heavy-duty maintenance work but pays a couple who lives there to do regular maintenance – she vacuums, he puts out the garbage.
“They want the extra bucks, so they don’t mind doing it,” she says. The couple is paid through the building’s payroll, rather than as 1099 employees, and the pair are covered by a minimum workers’ compensation policy.
A small condo complex DeLorme manages has an arrangement with a porter who works from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. at a larger building nearby to serve as their part-time super. “The complex just needs four hours a day, so he goes over before or after work so these people can get 20 hours a week,” DeLorme says.
The porter’s full-time position is in a union building; the condo complex is not unionized. But 32BJ SEIU, the union representing property service workers, does not restrict union members from working in non-union buildings during their off-hours, according to a union spokesperson.
From the union’s perspective, such arrangements are viewed as financially beneficial to their members, says attorney Dean Roberts, a partner at Norris McLaughlin & Marcus. Likewise, the boards of large buildings typically don’t object to staff members working at neighboring buildings during off hours so long as it doesn’t affect their full-time responsibilities. Says Roberts: “It provides them with extra income and could help keep them around longer.” – LP
Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments
Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise
Got elected? Are you on your co-op/condo board?
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