HABITAT

BUILDING OPERATIONS

Rise of the Part-Time Super

Lisa Prevost in Building Operations on March 17, 2017

New York City

Sometime Super

March 17, 2017 — Companies meet smaller co-ops’ and condos’ demand for affordable help.

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. 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.

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.

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,” he says. “With us, you always have someone to complain to.”

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