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Of all the desirable features of this home, a live-in superintendent may be the most convenient. (Turtle Bay Towers, #15L - KWNYC Midtown) Of all the desirable features of this home, a live-in superintendent may be the most convenient. (Turtle Bay Towers, #15L - KWNYC Midtown)
If you live in a multifamily dwelling in New York City, there is a high chance that you already live in a building with a live-in superintendent. Virtually all full-service buildings (i.e., buildings with door staff and porters) have one or even more live-in superintendents, and many non-service buildings also have a live-in superintendent. The reason for this is simple. The Housing Maintenance Code of Union 32BJ, which includes building workers such as superintendents, explicitly states that if a building has ten or more units, at least one superintendent must live on-site or within 200 feet of the building.

This article breaks down what superintendents do, why their work is essential, and why superintendents, especially live-in ones, typically end up collecting the biggest tips during the holiday season.

Handyman Pexels - Andrea Piacquadio

Jack (or Jill) of All Trades and A Lot More

New York City superintendents must possess a comprehensive knowledge of everything related to running a multifamily dwelling and possess a range of other people, communication, and management skills. Part handyman or handywoman (though the vast majority of superintendents are male), part building manager, part project manager, and part 24/7 building convener (though the 32BJ contract clearly states that superintendents are only required to work 40 a week), superintendents essentially do it all, so city residents don't have to worry about the daily upkeep of their residences. A partial list of responsibilities that fall on the shoulders of the city's superintendents include the following:
Maintaining, monitoring, and fixing HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems

Among other skills, superintendents must know how to maintain and monitor an HVAC system (a task that is harder than one might expect, especially in a high-rise building where temperatures can vary significantly from the first to top floors). Superintendents also must possess an advanced understanding of plumbing and electrical systems. While they generally do contract with licensed HVAC technicians, plumbers, and electricians when major problems arise, they must be able to fix daily glitches and at least diagnose other common problems that plague nearly all residential building systems from time to time.
Overseeing other general maintenance projects

In addition, superintendents are charged with overseeing general maintenance projects in their assigned buildings, including those related to carpentry, painting, flooring, patching, general hardware, minor building repairs, and cleanliness. This means that if a door is falling off its hinge, a lightbulb has burnt out in the laundry room, the paint is chipping in the hallway, or there is a disgusting spill in the lobby, it is the superintendent’s job to ensure the repair or clean up happens in a timely manner. He or she needs to either do the job or delegate it in a building with other staff.
Manage and order building supplies

While most tenants don't see this end of their building's operations, all buildings require supplies. From light bulbs and cleaning supplies to mouse traps and sidewalk salt, buildings must have a host of supplies on hand. Superintendents, who work closely with boards in coops and condos and with management companies in most other buildings, are responsible for ensuring that the building has the supplies needed to respond to daily nuisances and the next weather disaster.
Manage other building staff and contractors as needed

In most buildings, superintendents oversee other building staff, including part-time or assistant superintendents, porters, and doormen. This means that hiring, scheduling, and supervising staff is another key part of the job. If they don't have staff, they are still responsible for supervising the work of any contractors brought in to fix problems they can't fix themselves.
Ensure the compliance of any contractors working in the building

Finally, superintendents are their building's primary gatekeepers. From ensuring insurance certificates have been completed before furniture deliveries to overseeing the work of contractors doing repairs in private units, superintendents must know what is happening at all times and ensure it is not compromising the health or safety of tenants or impacting the structural integrity of the building.
Given the wide range of skills required to be a superintendent, most job advertisements explicitly ask for individuals who not only possess all the above technical skills but possess strong written and verbal communication skills, supervisory experience, management experience, customer relations experience, and at least a working knowledge of Microsoft Word and Excel. In some cases, experience using one or more building management software programs is also a requirement.

Why Your Superintendent Likely Deserves to Be Tipped Up During the Holiday Season

Thanks to the advocacy of 32BJ of the Services Employees International Union, unionized superintendents in New York City are fairly compensated and have access to benefits. They also generally make more than other building staff due to the high level of skill and responsibility associated with the position.

A job search on Indeed carried out in fall 2022 found that live-in superintendents generally make between $45,000 to $70,000 annually, though compensation is impacted by experience and seniority, so some live-in superintendents make less, and many make much more. Here, it is also important to note that while free housing may be a major perk of the job, according to the 32BJ contract for building managers, live-in superintendents’ housing and utilities don’t technically count as a wage, remuneration, or income.
So, how much should you tip your superintendent during the holiday season? As detailed in Market Insight's helpful guide on holiday tipping, with few exceptions, you generally should tip building staff, and your largest tip should go to your superintendent. If you're wondering how much they deserve, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself a simple question: How much would someone have to pay you to wake up at 2 a.m. to unclog a neighbor’s toilet or deal with an emergency flood after spending the day overseeing an HVAC repair and escorting an exterminator through your building?

If you couldn't or wouldn't be willing to do this at any price, you already have a good starting point for determining how much your superintendent deserves during the holiday season. The bottom line is that while free housing may sound like a dream, especially in New York City, live-in superintendents have one of the toughest jobs in town.

Listings with Live-In Superintendents

210 East 36th Street, #9D (Bond New York Properties LLC)

The York Gate, #2J (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New York Properties)

Gramercy Plaza, #12J (Douglas Elliman)

Colonnade East, #4E (Corcoran Group)

The Chesterfield, #7A (Halstead dba Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)

The Alexandria House, #1B (Brown Harris Stevens)

Turtle Bay Towers, #15L (KWNYC Midtown)

Sutton Gardens, #5P (Sotheby's International Realty, Inc.)

The Lumiere, #THI (The Agency)

1230 Park Avenue, #5B (Warburg Realty Partnership)
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Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.