There are no official laws on the books that dictate whether supers can serve on co-op boards; this is typically outlined in a co-op's bylaws. And though it's certainly advantageous for the super to attend co-op board meetings to share important updates about the state of the building, it is reasonable for the board to change the bylaws to forbid superintendents from becoming board members. Why? Even with an extremely popular super, allowing him to serve on the co-op board will likely create conflicts of interest, according to a Brick Underground panel of experts.
"The board decides the super’s compensation and bonus, and provides the super directions," says Jeffrey Reich, a partner at the law firm Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas. "The board reviews the super’s performance and, when necessary, decides what disciplinary measures to take with the super. As such, having the super on the board could create real conflicts of interest and would certainly create the appearance of a conflict of interest."
The bylaws are the go-to document in such cases.
"You need to check the bylaws to see if there are any ownership requirements for someone to serve on the board," says James Woods, managing partner at the law firm Woods Lonergan. "Some cooperatives may limit board member eligibility to resident-shareholders, or just shareholders, and others do not have those eligibility requirements."
Co-op shareholders are entitled to a copy of the bylaws, as well as any amendments made to them, Woods adds. There are additional city laws about where supers should reside, depending on the size of the building. New York City apartment buildings with nine or more units are required to provide janitorial or superintendent services to residents, and supers must either live in the building or within 200 feet or one block of the building (whichever distance is greater.) If a building is ignoring this rule, residents can call 311 or log onto the 311 website to find out how to report a violation.
If enough shareholders are in agreement that they want their building to retain the super, they could band together and write a letter to the co-op board. But if the super will stay only if he's allowed to serve on the board, those shareholders are probably out of luck.
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