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Building Staff Utilities FYIMay 08, 2018

Our in-house finance committee, made up of shareholders who review the management reports on a quarterly basis, discovered that the corporation has been paying the ‘Verizon FiOs’ package for the building super, including cable, phone and internet. The super has a cell phone which is used for work purposes, so the landline with the package would be for the super’’s personal use.

Just wanted to throw it out there - is this expense considered optional or required for the resident super? The Board is generally ticked off that this cost may have been passed on erroneously to the coop for quite some time. Please share your thoughts... Thanks!

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Live-in Super amenities - Steven424 May 09, 2018

My building had a very similar but more complex situation with our live-in super and telephone lines. What we ultimately discovered was that when Verizon converted all our copper "POTS" phone lines to fiber, they unilaterally upgraded a phone line to FiOS Triple Play they were not authorized to upgrade.

A phone line the super uses in his office and for which the building receives and pays the monthly invoices, was listed as a residential phone line in the super's name. It should have been listed as a business line in the building's name. The super has his own FiOS Triple Play service he pays for directly.

When our lines were updated from copper POTS to Fiber, the super contracted privately to upgrade to FiOS Triple Play (about $220/month). Verizon, in their blessed incompetency, also upgraded the office phone line that was in our super's name, to FiOS Triple Play at about the same $220/month.

It took us about six months, until February of this year, to discover the problem. I'm still fighting with Verizon for a refund, so lotsa luck!

Bottom line. If you have a live-in super, he should be paying for his digital services unless there is a clear understanding with the building that the building will pay the bill. If he uses the phone service bundled with the Triple Play for an office phone or other business purpose, he should be reimbursed accordingly.

Before you have "the talk" with the super or take any action, you must determine when and who authorized the upgrade to the expensive digital services. You need to go back to the beginning when the expensive services were first ordered, and try to find out who authorized the upgrade. Hopefully, your managing agent archived the actual invoices or has copies of them so you can determine when this started. If you have an approximate date, see if Verizon can supply you with paper copies of the invoices around that date.

What you find out about who authorized the changes will determine how you handle the situation. If it was the super and he upgraded without permission, he bears responsibility. If Verizon did the upgrade without anyone approving the change, it becomes the building's responsibility.

The length of time the expensive services were in place will also color your interaction with your super, if you determine he is responsible. Co-ops have a responsibility to review their expenses on a monthly or quarterly basis. The overcharge should have been flagged within three months. If it's been going on for longer, you either need to eat some of the excess or work out a payment plan with your super.

Even if he authorized the upgrade, it may have been an innocent mistake. Plans like Triple Play are notoriously complex (probably to achieve exactly what happened here), and your super may have thought he was being economical because of all the "savings" he was told there would be. Verizon, Spectrum, AT&T are very predatory, and you need to give your super the benefit of the doubt until determined otherwise.

I hope I've given you some food for thought. Please don't jump to any conclusions, but establish as best you can what happened, and then decide if you need to do anything vis-a-vis your super. If you value your super and have a good working relationship with him, simply pointing out what you discovered but not asking for any reimbursement, or just for reasonable reimbursement, will create a huge amount of priceless good will. At least that's how it works in our building.

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