Super Supers Hiring and Training Great Superintendents

Locked out? Need your heat fixed? Perhaps your apartment has a problem with multi-legged creatures. Who are you going to call? Your building superintendent, of course. Your super is there to repair the broken, find the missing, and restore order when things go haywire.

Years ago, a New York City building superintendent might also be called "the handyman," "the janitor," "the maintenance man," or "the porter" and was called upon by residents to make repairs and keep the building fully operational.

"When I was a boy before World War II, most supers lived in the basement of the buildings they worked for," says Dick Koral, secretary/treasurer for the New York City Superintendents Technical Association, formerly known as the Superintendents Club of New York, a non-profit technical society that works to educate and professionalize building superintendents, resident managers, handypersons, porters, and other multifamily building support personnel in the New York City region. "They had large families down there, too. Pay was very low, benefits non-existent, and they shoveled coal into the old boilers."

Fortunately, times have changed. Today, building superintendents have moved out of the basement and into healthier, more spacious living quarters that fit the needs of their family. In many buildings - particularly high-end luxury buildings - there is a definite hierarchy among building staff, with the superintendent firmly on top. In addition to that, most New York City superintendents are also now unionized, have access to healthcare and can earn a respectable salary.

The super's job responsibilities have expanded, too. Along with the managing agent, the super helps to keep the building operating smoothly by not only performing minor repairs, but also overseeing building staff and maintaining the building's basic operating systems. Overall, the super has a significant say in how well the building functions, both mechanically and as a workplace and home.

Getting the Job, Doing the Job

To fully perform these job responsibilities, a superintendent should have experience in all of these areas and other less obvious - though no less important - skills, especially communication. "There are many skills that a well-qualified superintendent needs to possess," says Joseph Hill, resident manager of Trump Plaza, a 200-unit luxury co-op on Manhattan's East Side, "such as a good mechanical background, the ability to manage staff, and strong communication skills when dealing with shareholders, the board of directors and the management company."

"Job descriptions vary from building to building however," continues Hill. "For example, if you have a small property with four employees - say, three doormen and yourself - you would be expected to do almost all the work. If, on the other hand, you managed a high-end luxury building, with a staff of twenty employees you would delegate the work to your handymen, porters and so forth."

To gain the necessary experience as a super for either small properties or high-end luxury buildings, most superintendents begin their careers as porters or handymen. Here they achieve on-the-job training that helps them to climb the ladder to superintendent. One also could tap the maintenance staff of hospitals, schools and other large institutions. It's key to check references of prospective candidates and make sure they are presentable and have good communications skills. Experience is a good barometer and someone from a skilled trade is probably a good choice.

"[A porter or handyman] learns every aspect of the physical plant, says Koral, and if he shows aptitude to deal with tenants - which is a critical skill - he may be promoted to super," said Koral.

When searching for a new superintendent, the property manager or managing agent will begin the interview process with a number of qualified applicants and present several candidates to the building's board of directors, who will then continue interviewing and make a final decision.

"Every building has different needs," says Margie Russell, the executive director of The New York Association of Realty Managers (NYARM). "Not only do they take into consideration the employee's particular level of experience and education, but the building will dictate the necessary level of experience and education a superintendent must have."

Learning As You Go

Although a college education is not necessarily required to be an effective, successful super, more superintendents are taking continuing education courses as the work environment and world change. "For example," says Hill, "while computer skills and [experience with] some form of security detail planning may not have been a job requirement 10 years ago, today they are a must."

Supers have lots of educational opportunities to expand their know-how and enrich their experience, including building maintenance courses and the Superintendent/Resident Manager I and II certification programs offered by SEIU Local 32BJ, the tri-state area's building service union, representing 70,000 cleaners, doormen, porters, maintenance workers, window cleaners, security guards, superintendents, and theater and stadium workers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The union also runs the New York Safe & Secure program, which provides building service employees with four hours of security awareness training to teach employees to be aware of suspicious behavior and packages and what to do in case of a building emergency.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) also offer programs like the Fundamentals of Residential Property Management Series and Intermediate and Advanced Residential Property Management and Maintenance Series. These courses are described as being targeted towards people who are interested in gaining in-depth knowledge about the management and maintenance of multi-family residential properties.

The Fundamentals series coursework include classes like Introduction to Building Systems, and How to Safely Use and Maintain Construction Tools. The Intermediate series is designed to help participants develop a comprehensive management and marketing plan; to learn to effectively work with and evaluate the work of their employees and how to set organizational objectives. Courses include Maintenance of Building Systems/Physical, Building Finance, Working With Tenants, General Construction, Hands On-Electrical Systems, and Hands-On Plumbing Systems.

Upon completion, participants can obtain a Certificate in Advanced Building Management, but must complete a specific number of courses/seminars, including Fair Housing, Water & Energy Conservation, and Environmental Health for Owners/Managers.

NYARM offers a certification course for property managers that superintendents can complete, according to Russell. NYARM, in association with New York University's Real Estate Institute (NYU REI) in its School of Continuing and Professional Studies, conducts a professional realty management program that provides training for building owners, managers, supervisors and maintenance personnel in building management.

The New York City College of Technology's The Apartment House Institute also provides a variety of education and information services to owners, managers, and superintendents of multifamily buildings, as well as individuals who have significant input into operation and maintenance of these buildings. The Institute offers courses in management of affordable housing that leads to a Certificate in Housing Management.

On the Job

Once hired, a superintendent may have the responsibility of an entire building crew, including handypersons, porters, concierge, and other staff. "A superintendent is the top of the maintenance operation," says Koral, but he still reports to an even higher authority: the property manager.

Proper communication between the superintendent and the property manager is vital to keeping the building running smoothly. "If I feel there is a serious enough issue at hand, I would inform the agent and board of directors by memo," says Hill, who keeps the property manager informed on the building through regular weekly reports and monthly reports at the board meetings. "This helps keep them informed on how the property is operating."

"A superintendent's success or failure is determined by the day-to-day operation of the property he manages," says Hill. "If you handle all work requests in a timely fashion and are proactive, you will succeed. However, if issues are not addressed, the shareholders will look to the management company and board of directors to find out why the super is not performing."

This is key to having a super on the premises 24/7. It's also the law. "It's a city law that any building over twelve units that has an owner who does not reside in the building must have super on the property 24/7 or a super that lives no more than 200 feet away," says Koral.

It's also important for a super to know his or her limitations, and to know better than to attempt a risky or exceptionally complicated repair project on their own, says Timothy Carr, vice president of Midboro Management in Manhattan. "The super needs to know their boundaries. If something is out of the realm of their ability, they shouldn't attempt anything. They may be trying to do the right thing, but it could blow up in their face."

Super Perks

While being in charge of operations in a large multifamily building is without question a lot of work, super-dom does have its advantages. One commonly added perk to a super's job is a rent- or mortgage-free apartment. "Many times, a cooperative will offer an incoming super a one-room or one-and-a-half room apartment, and a super with a large family just can't accept the job," says Koral. "However, in some buildings, the super has a three-bedroom apartment and can live there nicely. There are many outer-borough supers who yearn to [work in] Manhattan, because their kids can go to schools in good neighborhoods."

The work is hard and a super is always on call, but the salary can be substantial, depending on the size and location of the building, the super's responsibilities and whether he is part of a union. An annual salary estimate for an on-site super in a Manhattan high-rise is approximately $50,000, (not including tips), but can be as high as $100,000 in certain luxury apartments.

"Tips can be significant," said Koral. "Some people I've spoken to will fork over about $300 a year in tips to the super, handyperson and porters. If you have a building with several hundred units and each gave $300 a year, that adds up."

"A good super is worth more than you're probably paying him," says Carr. "A lot of the big buildings on the West Side don't want to lose their supers to the East Side, so some give huge bonuses, or other incentives," like parking space, or more spacious living quarters.

From roof to basement, the superintendent knows the building's ins and outs, nuts and bolts, and, most importantly, its residents. It's a superintendent's never-ending job to make certain that the building is running smoothly and its residents are content.

Lisa Iannucci is a freelance writer living in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Related Articles

Hiring Staff

Choosing the Best People for the Job

Hiring a New Super

Finding the Best Fit for Your Community

Supporting Your Staff

Letting Your Employees Know You Care

 

30 Comments

  • I'm looking for a Super for my building, can you tell me where I could find one.
  • I would be a great super.I have experience .Was in the military and looking for a job you could contant me at 646-359-0813
  • i am super at jersey shore 900 unit complex for 10 years. looking to make a move
  • I'M A SUPER OF A 42 UNIT BUILDING MAKING $325.00 A WEEK. WHAT AM I REALLY WORTH?
  • We have a 100 apartment Condo. Our super doesn't accept a Studio apartment in the building and he is backed up by Board members who prefer paying him almost a 100000 dollars a year for his expenses and rent in a less expensive neighborhood about 1/2 our away by train.. He works from 7 to 3. Is this legal?
  • Interested article on the hiring practice of superintendent, but for except that today also, one of the practice is the selling of these jobs, where individuals are hired with no experience just as long as they are willing to pay a few thousands dollars to another super transfering, retiring or property manager that is corrupted for the job. I know of one who has no experience and in the 7 yrs he has been working as a super for Brown Harris and Stevens at 485 Park Ave still does not know how to run a bldg. Can not even train personnel. He is having problems with his staff because he has no integrity and also with the tenant's. Whom plan to vote him out and wish to replace him with one of the employees that is fully and much more qualified. However, this decision will be base on one of the property managers of brown harris and stevens on who to hire. And no doubt, the building is tag to the highest bidder. I think of two position also that have been bought, Porter and doorman where the super fails to follow the rules of promotions when ever any employee quits the job. There is no promotion in the building. Therefore we the employees are led to believe that these jobs are sold and bought. We have in our building job discrimination and job harrassment. 2 employees quit for the above reasons. It all comes to one thing. The super lacks the motivational skills and leadership skills to run a building. Because of the corrupted hiring practice.
  • not nesesseraly the jobs are bought , sometimes its who you know, if a super cant control his staff than he shouldnt be there ...the super should be the person that can control everything and everyone 100%.. he sis the one who is responsible for everything ..
  • Carole: It is iligal for the Super to live 1/2 hour away from the premises he works. According to Fire Department Code, the super can live away from the building he works, just as long that is one square block away from where he works. That is a raduis that he is allow to live away from. He is breaking a violation in accordance to this code.
  • Hi my Name is Javier and I have been working as a porter in a 144 units residential building in White Plains NY I have took the cousers, Basic Pluming,Basic Electricity,Basic Carpenter,and now im taking Air Pullution and Stand Pipe and Sprinkles with my Union 32BJ,Im a nice person,Not drinking,Not smoking ,Not drugs,honest and hard working,I would like to find a position as a superrintendent if anyone can help me,but to be honest as a said i have not experience as super only as a porter.and i think sometimes we the porters deal with people problems more that the super does.at leats in my job ;) thx for everything.
  • My live in super does not respond to any of my repair concerns. He is very rude and dismissive. I am a shareholder in a 60 unit building in Riverdale. i have ascertained that he is prejudice. The managing agent refuses to address my concerns and tells me I am "blowing things out of proportion." What now?
  • I beleive that the super does not care about the shareholder requets to repair whta needs to be repair in the apartment what you realy need is to find a better super thats willing to do his job correct and make sure that the tenants are happy with thier repairs Ive been a super for over 10 years and right now Im looking for some work.
  • Paying High Maintenance for None on Thursday, September 24, 2009 9:54 PM
    Is a coop in NYC compelled to have a live in super and if so, can he be fired if it is proven that his legal residence is in another state? He is never around, when he is in the area he is usually at another building somewhere in the neighborhood He is engaged to work 20 hours per week but he does little, the building is dirty and it is hard to get him to do anything, is the coop obligated to pay for his utilities and health insurance for him and his family beside his rent free apartment?
  • Your managing agent has responsibility to supervise his actions and therefore responsible to make the necessary changes. If the Board allows this as well then you have no recourse but to direct your concerns to them at your next annual meeting.
  • I was the construction Supervisor on 40 luxury units bldg during almost 3 years, now start being rented, and i was invited to be the super, i was offered 1 bedroom unit and a Salary ???? that i have no idea how much i must ask for, that's a completely different job, i know the building like my hand and im also handyman and when in the army i was captain, speak 5 languages. Somebody can give me some clue?
  • I am interested in acquiring all necessary licenses to be a complete package super! ie: #6 boiler, Universal a/c, stand pipe and sprinkler are there any full service schools that are free or at least reasonable!
  • What is a fair tip for a super? I usually give him a cold beer after finishing a job. I'm not used to living in a building where there's actually a real super answering calls... while I want to be fair, I don't want to have to pay for all things that go wrong with the apartment. I am also unemployed so it's difficult to shell out anything with no disposable income.
  • Hello I am superintendent on upper west side I am looking to change companies and I would like to obtain a job with better benefits How does one get a job at new constructed buildings?
  • Looking for a super for a medium sized coop in western Queens. 1BR live-in unit. Any interested parties?
  • Am I a supt . I Have a lease and my rent Goes up every 2 years. As per the rent Stability percentage. 20 units. No salary. I do basically porter work and light Maintenance . It is a rent stabilized apt. Also can I be discharged and asked to vacate my apt? Even though I have a lease? Thanks Have
  • For over thirty years, I have been a faithful super for four sites in central NJ; I live at and expected to use my personal vehicle to travel to satellite locations, totaling 100 units. Under new mgmt. the quality of working conditions has severely deteriorated, with illegal demands stipulated. How does one go about formulating a union, I work amongst many disgruntled employees. Any information would be appreciated.
  • I have been a super in a coop building in nyc for over 20yrs and was a super for 5 yrs in a rental building. I think according to the building you have your job can be defined in many different ways. The only thing that never changes is that you are on the job 24/7 and get paid for 8 hrs this is what residents tend to over look. A professional superintendent or resident manager knows how to relate to the needs of his or her residents and at the same time in return maintain a respectful relationship with his tenants.
  • this is my experience as a superintendent in hig riser condominum,I learned that the propertyes managers most of the time they looking how to hire their friends or relatives and reid off of the superintendent no matter how talented I'm.so also board of directors doing exactly the same abuse,last place that I was working was 400 hundred residential owners and they were so nice to me and respectfull ,but regarding prop.mangmnt.and member of BofD can't say anithing,now question is,there is not proteccion or human right for superintendents to stop these kind of abuse?if you know anything about it please help me out.. thanks
  • In a high rise apartment a lot goes on that the Board members and Management companies don't see. It is very difficult to replace people who have been the building for many years. No super can have all the skills needed to perform their jobs. If they are good technically, they might not have the communication skills. If they have both, the pay is not great and they rely on tips. Where there is job dissatisfaction, apathy follows and the feeling of not appreciated. Management companies and Board members have to have some respect for people their staff. College degrees and fancy resume mean nothing if people don't have emotional intelligence to lead and motivate. You can train people that are loyal and willing to work hard. I think NY is the most difficult place to manage buildings unless one is smart enough to understand the culture of each building and what the needs of tenants/ shareholders are. People pay a lot of money to live in Manhattan and they are demanding. Old buildings are beautiful architecturally, but have lot problems. It requires objective observation, emotional intelligence, patience ,tact and technical expertise. Successfully run buildings have participation of people who live there, who work together to make things work. Sometimes people have to thing outside the box.
  • Hi, i live in williamsburg brooklyn, and soon our building will be a co-op ,we will need a super and handymen. how much should they be paid?
  • i would like to be a super and handyman if they hire me i will have the building clean and repair things i know to do all that i was a super but some how they close the company
  • Can a live in resident manager put in for 4 hours of overtime if someone complains at night that the heat is too high or low and he takes 3 minutes to adjust it?
  • Park Ave Elite Doorman on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 9:47 PM
    Why is every comment here so poorly written and completely embarrassing to the trade of building workers.
  • Aspiring Superintendent on Sunday, February 15, 2015 2:50 PM
    I read almost all of the comments on this thread and I am embarrassed by the grammar on here. I am a Handyman / Part time Superintendent. It is not an easy field to succeed in. For every one luxuriously sounding Superintendent gig you hear about, there are 50 horrible ones and then everything in between. I read an answer on answers.com where someone made a blanket statement citing that a Superintendents salary is between $140 and 190k, I am not doubting there there aren't people making this kind of $$, I am just astonished that someone would claim this is the norm. That is probably .1% of the people in the field if not less. Many management firms that employ college educated people are looking only to hire college educated engineers as their Superintendents. They'll hire someone with a Degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Wherever in Boston, to come be a Superintendent of a Luxury high-rise in Manhattan. Again, I'll stipulate that in no way am I saying that this will not work. My own experiences and relationships that I've built within the industry illustrate that the best person for the job is a guy who came up through the ranks. Someone who is personable, knows his boundaries, can navigate through a million different personalities and still be received well. If this candidate exists and has an understanding of the mechanical systems of a building, understands theories, and has experience applying these theories then you my friend are looking at your perfect Super. Most are underpaid, many are micromanaged, and not all succeed just like in any other business. Average salary I'd guess to be (NYC) anywhere between $10 an hour all the way to $50, depending on location, building and staff size and what the management company is asking for the guy to do. It's not a 24/7 job. It's 25/8. The Super has to be on the ball more than always because his livelihood depends on it. You don't just lose your job if you get tossed. You literally lose everything and are out on the street. I saw a comment about a Super putting in for 4 hours OT because of a heating issue. I'm not sure if I would put in for OT based on a similar issue. If it's a matter of adjusting a knob then probably not. My question to you is how do you know it took him 3 minutes? He may have very well spent 2-4 hours working on it. Were you present when he fixed the issue? There are many things that need to be looked at pretty closely before you form an opinion where you condemn any Maintenance worker. It's one of those things where, unless you're in the field you really have no idea. I had a shutoff valve last week explode in someones bathroom, hot water pouring out of the wall at 60psi. Now imagine me soaked in hot steaming water, and then I get a call from the concierge telling me that apartment 24B is furious that he's been waiting 10 minutes to be let into his apartment, after he locked himself out. Sometimes you can add a few more problems, be creative. You've all lived in or know someone who has lived in a building and has complained about something. Just keep that scenario in mind when you're conjuring up a problem. Add contractors, staff members calling out sick, fire department personnel breaking a door down because an elderly person couldn't get up to turn the TV off and figured the FDNY would be the best option. I can go on, and on, and on. I also want to touch on Holiday tipping. I have a friend who works in a 700+ unit Rental in the heart of NYC as a Superintendent and doesn't even break $2,000. It's people like the ones that comment saying, they live for free and get tipped handsomely that are the root cause for a $2k bonus from 700 units paying average $3500 a month rent. Many in the field rely on these tips, just to catch up on bills. Yes, 32BJ offers a pension plan and full medical but a Porter will only bring home between $500-600 . $2400 per month, minus rent/commute/etc.. They're lucky to have enough left over for food and clothing. N
  • Good Morning i would like to get a Supers job, is there any openings you might i know of. i am very handy reliable honest person.
  • Im a super for the same company for 16 years now im 41 an i want to spread my wings ...im gettin older an nd something more laided bck