Our Live-In Super Is Retiring. Should We Hire Another, or Contract It Out?

Q: Our long term live-in superintendent of a 50-unit co-op is retiring. Is it necessary to hire another live-in super, or can his responsibilities, which are relatively light, be contracted out?

A: You can certainly contract out the duties of your super. The question is whether you want to.

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.” Hiring an outside company is one way to do that.


Dennis H. Greenstein, a real estate lawyer at the Manhattan office of the law firm Seyfarth Shaw and a former co-chairman of the New York State Bar Association’s condos and co-ops committee, said that many co-op boards ultimately decide not to replace a live-in super with a service and rent 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,” he said. 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 added, “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 residents living there. Live-in supers, Mr. Greenstein said, “become part of the community, and that’s a very good thing for a building.”

Eliminating the live-in super could also reduce apartment values, Mr. Greenstein said, because many potential buyers consider it a building asset.

Mark B. Levine, an owner of the property management firm EBMG and host of the NYC Real Estate Podcast, on the other hand, said that the boards at many of his firm’s co-ops hire outside janitorial services. But he cautioned that doing so “often feels more expensive than having a superintendent on payroll and their wages partially offset by the free apartment, 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.”

If your building is considering selling the super’s apartment, Mr. Levine cautioned against doing so if money is not an issue, so as to preserve the option of having a live-in super in the future.

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