March 4, 2016 —
In most co-op and condo buildings, the super helps residents with minor side jobs – painting a room, hanging a light fixture, maybe even installing a dishwasher. The resident and super usually agree to a price, and it’s usually paid in cash. Some residents worry about alienating the super if they seek outside bids for such work. A co-op shareholder on the Upper East Side has a question for the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times: “Should a super be held to a standard of ethics regarding bidding on a job or receiving payment?”
“Residents should never feel beholden to the staff on site,” says Mark Levine, a principal of Excel Bradshaw Management Group. “The work should be done by the most qualified technician for that particular job.”
Policies on moonlighting supers vary. While some buildings have lax oversight, others spell out that building staff is not allowed to perform side jobs while they’re on the clock. Some even forbid staff from any moonlighting in-house.
“Some buildings do have a rule that prohibits such work to avoid these types of problems,” says real estate attorney Adam Finkelstein. If you’re unsure about your building’s policies, ask the board for clarity. Boards that don’t have a policy in place might consider instituting one – along with a mechanism for enforcing it.
If you do hire the super, be aware of the risks. Does he have the necessary skills to do the work? If a pipe springs a leak, does he have adequate insurance to cover any damages?
“It’s easy to have the staff members taking care of these projects,” says Levine, “but it’s not always in the best interests of the building.”
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