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Does my co-op building have to hire a full-time super?

By Virginia K. Smith | May 31, 2016 - 3:59PM 

I own a co-op in a 78-unit building. The board has hired a part-time super, evening hours only, who started working just a couple of months ago. Is there any law that determines whether to have a full-time or part-time super according to the amount of apartments in the building?


Technically, the law doesn't require your building to have a full-time super, but you do need to have an on-call contact, and hiring your current super full-time is likely the easiest way to do it, say our experts.

According to article 83 of the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, for buildings of 13 units or more, if the owners themselves don't live on-site, a "janitor, housekeeper, or some other person responsible on behalf of the owner" needs to live in the building, or within 200 feet of the building.

And as Sam Himmelstein, a landlord-tenant attorney with Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue, & Joseph points out, the Housing Maintenance Code requires that "the janitor must have a telephone where the janitor may reasonably be expected to be reached."

In other words, unless the owner lives in the building and is willing to do this themselves, a building should have a super or other responsible party living there (or extremely close by) who can be reached in case the need for his or help arises.

"The intent is to have an emergency contact if a pipe bursts or something happens, not just to have the halls swept 24/7," explains Dean Roberts, a co-op and condo attorney with Norris, McLaughlin, & Marcus. "There has to be somebody there who's a 24-hour contact, but it doesn't have to be the super—it could be the landlord or owner."

In a co-op, technically, you or one of your fellow shareholders could qualify as an owner, and step up to fill this role without hiring your super full-time. "In essence, you have the owners on site in a co-op," says Roberts. But typically, board members or shareholders would be right to take pause at the prospect of shouldering this kind of responsibility.

"Most people don't want to sign off on that kind of duty," says Roberts. "So a 78-unit building would usually have a full-time super, because it makes logistical sense."

Roberts adds: "Legally, you're not required to [hire a full-time super], but common sense would dictate that for most larger buildings, you would." If you're concerned about how the building is handling the super situation, raise the issue at the next board meeting, and find out whether there is a designated emergency contact, and if not, if the building is financially able to hire your super full-time.  

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