New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide




The Super Dilemma: Live-In or Hired-Out?

New York City

Live-in supers, janitorial services, co-op and condo boards, amenities, apartment values.
June 5, 2023

Q: The longtime live-in superintendent at our 50-unit co-op is retiring. Should our co-op board hire another live-in super or contract the job out?

A: It's a tricky question, replies the Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times, and several factors need to be taken into account. First, New York City’s Housing Maintenance Code requires the owner of a building of nine or more units to “provide for janitorial services to be performed on a 24-hour-a-day basis.” A live-in super covers this requirement, obviously, but hiring an outside company is another way to comply with the code. The latter option has a major economic attraction: it allows the board to rent or sell the former live-in super's apartment.

Dennis Greenstein, counsel at the law firm Seyfarth Shaw, says many co-op and condo boards decide against replacing a live-in super and then renting or selling the super's apartment. The main reason is peace of mind.

“When you already had someone living there, things could change in terms of the service that people in the building expected or had,” Greenstein says. A live-in super “means having someone there more often, especially in an emergency,” who can help fix a problem immediately. A contracted janitorial service, he adds, “might be sending different people every time.” They’ll know how to repair a boiler, but won’t know the ins and outs of the building, or the personalities and preferences of the residents. Live-in supers, on the other hand, “become part of the community, and that’s a very good thing for a building.”

Another consideration is co-op and condo boards' incessant quest to buoy apartment values. Eliminating the live-in super could reduce values, Greenstein points out, because many potential buyers consider it a building asset.

Mark Levine, owner of the property management firm EBMG and host of the NYC Real Estate Podcast, counters that the boards at many of his firm’s co-op and condo clients hire outside janitorial services. But he cautions that doing so “often feels more expensive than having a superintendent on payroll and their wages partially offset by the free apartment." Why? "Because the service will include insurance coverage, payroll taxes and profit into their pricing model, as opposed to the building directly paying for insurance coverage and payroll taxes (for the live-in super).”

If your board is considering selling the super’s apartment, Levine advises against doing so, if money is not an issue. That way, even if you hire an outside janitorial service, you'll keep open the option of hiring another live-in super in the future.

Ask the Experts

learn more

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

Source Guide

see the guide

Looking for a vendor?