Dealing with Your Apartment Building Superintendent or “Super”

By Pierre Lehu

When you move into an apartment, you’ll eventually meet the building superintendent (or building supervisor). The “super” handles maintenance and repair for the apartment building — either alone or by managing a staff. Either way, the super and his or her staff are an important part of your life in an apartment, and you’ll need to form a good relationship.

Making sure your building staff is attentive to your needs requires two things: cash and respect. Treat the staff well by tipping them, being friendly, and saying please and thank you, and they’ll do their best to assist you. If you’re cheap about tipping and treat them with a superior attitude, you’ll regret it at some point.

Tipping apartment building staff

Christmas time is the traditional season for tipping staff, and you should be as generous as you can when filling those envelopes. But to make a really good impression, offer the staff some cash or other gifts at other times of the year when your generosity will stand out. Obviously, if someone comes to your apartment to make a repair, it’s a good idea to add a small tip to your “thank you,” but if the staff member comes to your apartment to make a change that’s being made to every apartment, then you don’t have to tip.

Tipping doesn’t always have to be cash. If you’re buying lottery tickets, buy one for your favorite staff member. If you’re going out to get coffee, ask if they’d like a cup. If you have a party, make a plate of fresh goodies, or share some leftovers.

Maintaining relationship boundaries with apartment building staff

Strive for good relations with your apartment building staff. Find out a bit about them so that you can ask them about their spouse or children. If you share an interest, such as a favorite hobby or sports team, then you’ll have a good topic of conversation when you see them. But unless you happen to really like a staff member and want to be friends, you should keep a little distance so that your relationship retains some professionalism.

The depth of your relationship with the building superintendent or staff is up to you. While it’s not a fine line, there is a line that you may not want to cross because of potentially sensitive situations. For example, if a staff member has a chronic problem, say drinking while on the job, then you might feel uncomfortable about reporting this behavior to the landlord because you’ve become too close.

If you’re a single woman, then that line has to well defined. If a staff member were to make an inappropriate advance, you’d then feel very uncomfortable when in the building, and this isn’t an acceptable situation. So for single women, it’s best to err on the side of caution and maintain firm boundaries.

Some building residents will call the landlord to report the least little infraction committed by one of the building staff, and that’s likely to backfire on that resident. Not only will the landlord ignore these reports after a while, but the reports will probably get back to the staff who may then feel less than willing to provide top-notch service to that resident.

Staying proactive with apartment building staff

If you know that you’re going to be doing something that may come to the attention of the super or other staff members, such as having workers going in and out of your apartment or throwing a party for lots of friends, let the building staff know ahead of time and, if appropriate, tip them when you do so. They’ll appreciate the cash and not being taken by surprise. And then, if other tenants complain to the building supervisor about your activity, he’ll be able to act as a buffer because of your earlier communication.