At this time of year, it’s customary (and just good manners) to show your appreciation for the work your building or association staff does for you and your neighbors by giving year-end holiday tips—but how much to give, and how to give it can sometimes be confusing.
When it comes to HOA or condo building staff, there are no hard-and-fast rules on exactly how much to tip each member of your association’s staff; indeed, it’s next to impossible to put a price tag on a secure building, an important package collected in a timely manner, or a happy, tail-wagging dog who your doorman was kind enough to walk because you were stuck in traffic.
That said, don’t assume you can just withdraw a fat stack of bills from your HOA’s operating fund and start stuffing Hallmark cards.
According to attorney Eric Glazer of Glazer & Associates, P.A., which has offices in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Florida, “I always get asked about the board’s right to dip into the operating account to give Christmas bonuses to association employees. Unfortunately, the answer is that unless the association is contractually obligated to pay these employees a gift or year-end bonus, and this amount is included in the budget, the association cannot use the members’ funds for such a purpose.”
Glazer is quick to point out that this doesn’t mean that tips or seasonal bonuses are illegal, or somehow improper — not at all. They just have to be given properly, in accordance with business law and an association’s own bylaws. If you want to gift the staff at your management company’s home office, “Do what we did in the co-op I grew up in in Brooklyn,” says Glazer. “One person goes around collecting money from everyone for all of the employees. Those who contribute get their name on the Christmas card that is given to the staff,” and those who don’t, don’t.
By the Numbers
So you’ve decided to take up a separate collection. If your building or HOA is like most, the following chart should help you figure out who gets what. The various amounts quoted below are averages of suggested figures published by Emily Post, the folks at tipping.org, and financial advisor Jean Chatzky, financial editor for NBC’s Today show and financial ambassador for the AARP.
Supers and Maintenance Personnel: $30—$100. According to Chatzky, “There’s a pretty wide range here, depending on whether you live in a luxury building or a more run-of-the-mill one, and how much the staff is at your beck-and-call during the year.”
Doormen: $25 and up. According to Tipping.org’s holiday tipping guidelines page, “Take into consideration how nice they are to you, if you get lots of visitors or deliveries, and if they’ve actually opened the door for you always. To maintain this level of quality service, you have to pay for it.”
Custodians/Porters: $20—$30. These people have a difficult, sometimes unpleasant job. If your kid dropped gooey candy or popcorn all over the lobby carpet, or your dog committed an indoor indiscretion at any point during the year, you owe it to your custodian to remember.
Handymen: $20—$30. This is an instance when the amount of your tip is directly proportional to the amount of work you’ve requested during the year. If you just greet each other in the hall, the lower end of the range should suffice. If you’ve gotten him or her out of bed in the dead of night to fish your cat out of the garbage chute … ask yourself how much such a task is worth to you, and show your appreciation accordingly.
Garage Attendants: $10—$25. If you use your car at odd hours, or if the attendants in your association’s garage or parking lot take special care of your vehicle, or have it ready for you when you get there, an acknowledgment of their attention is in order. You may tip each attendant individually, or earmark a half-month’s parking rate to be divided among the garage staff.
Garbage Collectors: $15—$20. If your building has a contract with a private waste management company; $15 to $20 is the customary amount for holiday tips, according to Tipping.org.
As for how to deliver a holiday bonus to members of your HOA staff, it’s entirely up to the community in question. Residents can give their tips individually, or all drop off their gift/s with an appointed collector (the board treasurer or secretary is a good choice for this task) who can deliver all of them to the staff at once.
Regardless of the cash value or method of delivery, however, Chatzky stresses the importance of “making sure that you present your tip as an actual present. Put it in a nice card, write a personal note, and deliver it personally rather than, for example, just taping it to the garbage can. And cash is appreciated, rather than checks.”
In what can sometimes seem like a very uncivilized world, it’s important to remember to make a gesture of civility and appreciation to the people who make it their business to lend you a hand and make your life easier—and the holiday season offers a perfect opportunity to do just that.
Cooper Smith is a staff writer/reporter for CooperatorNews.