Q&A: Live-in Super Who Runs an Outside Business

Q. I have lived in a 72-unit co-op in Brooklyn since 2004. When I was interviewed by the board, I was told the co-op has live-in super who is not allowed to have an additional outside job. This was an important appeal to me, as I felt day-to-day care of the building was being done, and also the safety of having someone watching who goes in and out of the building.

In the last year, the super (not the same person as when I moved in) was given permission to run an outside contracting business to supplement his income, in addition to his super’s salary and free apartment. The shareholders received no formal notice of this change

I feel an amenity under which I purchased my apartment has changed. Do I have any course of action, as I see the building's appearance and safety slipping?

 —Concerned Shareholder 

A. “As you point out in your question, having a live-in superintendent who is dedicated to taking care of your building’s needs is critical, not only for the maintenance and upkeep of the building, but also for security reasons,” says Slava Hazin, a partner at the law firm of Warshaw Burstein, based in New York City. “I would certainly raise the issue with the building’s managing agent and the board, and ask them why they permitted the superintendent to operate his own outside business -- specially if he is being paid a full-time salary and provided with a rent-free apartment by the cooperative.  

 “Your building is covered by Section 83 of New York’s Multiple Dwelling Law, which provides that whenever ‘there are 13 or more families occupying any multiple dwelling, and the owner does not reside therein, there shall be a janitor, housekeeper or some other person responsible on behalf of the owner who shall reside in said dwelling, or within a dwelling located within a distance of 200 feet from said dwelling, except that where two or three multiple dwellings are connected or adjoining, one resident janitor shall be sufficient.’  

“Even though the law requires a live-in janitor for your building (or one living nearby), he or she is not barred from being employed elsewhere. In fact, it is not uncommon for a superintendent or a janitor to be taking care of more than one building at a time. Thus, the answer to your question really depends on the terms of the superintendent’s employment, which management may not wish to disclose. It may also be dictated by the terms of a union collective bargaining agreement, as your superintendent may belong to a union.  Finally, I would also consult the offering plan to see if there is any reference to the building having a full-time, live-in superintendent.”

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