Ms. Demeanor's Vertical Etiquette

Dear Ms. Demeanor: What can I ask my super to do in my NYC apartment?

By Dianne Ackerman  | November 8, 2019 - 12:00PM

Many buildings do not allow a super to do any work outside their regular job, while some allow a super to do small jobs that do not take up too much time during the work day. Here's what you can ask him or her.


I love your columns! You recently wrote about tipping your super for small jobs. We are generous with our doormen, porter, and super when we tip over the holidays. And we often buy lunch or share pizza with the doormen. We have lived in our co-op for over six years, and I do not recall our former super ever fixing anything. Fortunately, we now have a young super who seems more competent. When exactly is it appropriate to ask a super for help? What exactly is he supposed to help with? It’s never been clear to me. Can you explain? Signed, Stumped Susan

Dear Stumped,

Thank you so much for the lovely compliment and excellent question. The answer really depends on your proprietary lease as well as the super himself. Many buildings do not allow a super to do any work outside their regular job. My building allows a super to do small jobs that do not take up too much time during the work day and is more flexible if the work is to be done outside of normal business hours.

So, if both your lease and your super permit the work, what can you ask him to do? Obviously, you should only ask him to do something that you cannot do yourself. I have asked my super to replace a washer in my faucet and hang a blind in my kitchen. He has helped me put in a light bulb in the ceiling as well as a battery in my smoke detector—both spots that I could not reach. I have also asked him to snake my toilet when my plunger would not do the job.  Few of these assignments have taken more than a few minutes.

You also should be sure that your super is licensed to do the kinds of jobs you are asking him to perform.  This is very important for insurance purposes. It is also a good idea to make sure that he really is as capable as he seems. I have a chip in my kitchen counter from a previous super who clearly did not know how to install a dishwasher as well as P.C. Richard. 

If you are undergoing any kind of construction or renovation, the super should be monitoring the work.  This is part of his job. He has to have certificates of insurance from all of the vendors and contractors, and he has to make sure that they follow the building rules regarding working hours, as well as elevators and entrances to be used.

Thanks again for writing and continue to share the pizzas.

Ms. Demeanor

Dianne Ackerman is the new voice of reason behind Ms. Demeanor. She has lived in her Upper East Side co-op for the past 20 years and is the vice president of her co-op board. She is filled with opinions that she gladly shares with all who ask—and some who do not. Have something that needs sorting out? Drop her an email.


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