Our rental building has a new management company, and they replaced our super with someone else. We love our former super, who worked hard through the pandemic. The building is messier since the new super took over, and he isn't responsive to requests. Is there anything we can do to get our old super back?
There are certain legal requirements of management when it comes to hiring superintendents: The city's housing maintenance code requires that owners of buildings with nine or more apartments provide janitorial services. These services must be available 24/7 and can be provided by the owners themselves or by a janitor the owners hire.
Moreover, the state's Multiple Dwelling Law requires that for buildings with 13 or more units where the owner doesn't live there, there must be a janitor who either lives in the building or within 200 feet of it. However, renters don't get a say in who that janitor or superintendent is.
"Tenants can't dictate who the landlord hires," says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations (and FYI, a Brick sponsor). "It's strictly an employer-employee decision."
However, you're not totally powerless: If your neighbors are also unhappy with the new superintendent, you should band together and let the management know.
"Get a significant number of neighbors to sign a letter to the landlord requesting that the landlord re-hire the prior superintendent, and explaining how the maintenance of the building has suffered in his absence," says Jeffrey Reich, a partner in the law firm of Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas. "If the landlord believes that re-hiring the prior superintendent will help with tenant retention, or will raise the level of the maintenance of the building, the landlord may agree to re-hire the prior superintendent."
If the state of the building is suffering in the absence of your previous superintendent, you and your neighbors could consider threatening to start an HP proceeding—that is, a legal petition in housing court to compel the landlord to make repairs.
"You could tell management that the building is dirty and you think you could bring an HP action or request a rent reduction, but that's not what you're interested in—you want to bring back the old super," Himmelstein says. "This would be more of a political response, if you're willing to band together and make a demand. It might work and it might not."
Finally, a more radical option—and one that may be harder to get your neighbors on board with—is to offer to pay a little more to bring back your old super.
"My guess is the landlord fired the former super to save money and hired someone less experienced," Himmelstein says. "If the tenants want to be creative, they could say they're willing to pay a small rent increase to bring back the old super."
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