Co-op and condo buildings are complex social communities. At the heart of many of these communities is the superintendent. The super is the command center of the physical plant. He or she keeps it running like a well-oiled machine, and knows every inch, crack and crevice of the property. Typically, supers live in the building and stay with the community for many years, often decades. A good, trustworthy super is invaluable.
But like anyone, at some point he or she will move on to something else. So how should a building go about in finding a new superintendent and make sure he or she is a good fit? Two real estate experts weigh in.
Replacing a Super
Generally, unless the super has a pressing reason to leave, or if the building is unhappy with his or her performance, retirement is usually the main reason a co-op or condo will be in the market for a new one.
“The first consideration in picking a new super is experience,” says Stuart Halper, Vice President of Impact Management, which has offices in Manhattan, Queens, Westchester, and Long Island. “If the building has other staff, say a handyman or assistant super, one would look to the existing staff first.” The key here is that the assistant super or handyman would be familiar with the building and the way it works.
“If the building doesn’t have any other staff, we look on Indeed.com, a job search site,” continues Halper, “and we post an ad on Craigslist.” It’s also a good idea to ask the outgoing super if he has someone to recommend. As in many lines of work, supers know other supers or may have family members or others in their communities with the right experience.
The Process of Choosing One
The job selection process for a superintendent is not much different than for any other kind of work. It generally involves a series of interviews. “The manager should conduct the first interview after screening resumes,” says Halper. “After that initial interview, possible candidates for the job should be interviewed again by either a subcommittee set up by the co-op or condo board for the purpose of finding a new super, or by the entire board. In some cases, that might be two interviews.”
Halper also says that the manager and co-op or condo board should be very careful when hiring someone new who has worked as a super elsewhere but is no longer working as a super. Supers rarely jump from one job to the next. So if an applicant is out of work when your co-op or condo is interviewing, be sure to check with the prior building to make sure there wasn’t a problem that caused him to lose his position.
One additional item to consider is whether the building is a union building. If it is, says Phyllis Weisberg, a partner at the law firm of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP in Manhattan, “you obviously need a union super. And the board should be mindful of the probationary period under a union contract.” The union that represents property workers is 32BJ SEIU, regarded as the largest property services workers union in the country.
For the most part, compensation for a superintendent is a combination of salary and a place to live. Many apartment buildings, especially those built through the end of the 1970s, have dedicated super’s apartments, usually located on the first floor or in the basement. In newer buildings, particularly those built from the 1980s onward, the super is provided a two-bedroom apartment somewhere in the building. It’s not uncommon for the building to offer some level of medical insurance to the super as well.
“Supers don’t require a license,” says Halper. “But they do require a license to operate the building’s boiler if they are in New York City."
Breaking in the New Super
Considering that in many buildings the superintendent is “part of the family,” there is an adjustment period for both the residents and the new super. Halper suggests two things. One is patience on the part of the residents. The second is that the new super begin work several months before the old super leaves, so that he or she can learn the ins and outs of the property from the person most intimate with it.
Halper also advises that it’s good policy to get the new super “up and running” before he or she moves into the super’s apartment. If there is a problem, then you realize you’ve made the wrong choice. it’s very hard to get the new super out if you want to replace him, as he or she is already living in the super’s apartment. He’s a tenant and all the rules protecting New York City tenants also apply to the new super.
In short, as with anything, when hiring a super, caveat emptor. Do your due diligence. Remember, this person is critical to the healthy operation of your home and community.
AJ Sidransky is a staff writer at The Cooperator, and a published novelist.