The Responsibilities of a Building Superintendent to the Landlord

Repainting and renovating an apartment room
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Many landlords hire building superintendents—"supers" for short—to help them manage their rental properties. The title is common in both the U.S. and Canada, but it's also sometimes referred to as an "apartment manager" or a "resident manager."

The various responsibilities of supers depend on the agreements made between them and landlords, but a super is typically responsible for one or more of 10 tasks that fall into two main categories: property maintenance and tenant issues.

Some towns require that rental properties with a certain number of rental units must have a building super.

What Is a Super?

A building superintendent often occupies a unit in the landlord’s rental property, such as a basement or ground floor unit where he can live rent-free or for a reduced rent in exchange for the services he provides. He might additionally receive a salary or wages. It can vary depending on the size of the building and the services he's expected to perform.

The super must reside within a certain distance from the rental property if he doesn't actually live on premises. He's typically on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and he must be close by to handle any emergencies that might come up.

The superintendent will have an extra set of keys to each apartment. He'll be available to promptly let tenants back in if they lock themselves out.

Taking Out the Garbage

Someone has to take the garbage out, and this is typically the job of the building super. Of course, she must also bring the garbage cans back in after garbage is collected. The super might not have to deal with this type of chore hands-on in some larger rental complexes, but would still be responsible for supervising maintenance staff to make sure the job is done.

She should be familiar with the town’s garbage collection rules, including what days of the week garbage is collected and what time garbage can be put out for collection. Many towns will issue tickets if garbage is put out too early.

She should know which days of the month bulk items can go out, or who to contact to arrange a bulk pick-up, as well as the schedule and procedures for recyclables.

Keeping the Property Clean

A super must keep all common areas of the property clean, or ensure that the maintenance staff does so. This includes picking up garbage, broom-sweeping halls and stairways, and mopping and keeping all walkways clear.

Snow Removal

A super might have the additional obligation of shoveling snow in the winter. Supers might feel that they're constantly shoveling snow in some areas of the country, while this could occur just once or twice a year in other localities—or never.

Removing snow includes knowing how long soon sidewalks and walkways should be cleared after snowfall ends. It includes shoveling sidewalks, walkways, and driveways, and salting icy patches as well as the snow itself in some areas so it doesn't refreeze.

Maintenance Issues

Building supers almost always deal with small maintenance issues themselves, such as changing door locks, fixing dripping faucets, or spackling small holes, but a landlord might decide that he wants to hire a super with more advanced maintenance skills to deal with heating, cooling, or plumbing issues.

In this case, the individual should have credentials to show that he's capable of competently performing this type of work. Lacking these credentials, a super might be charged with overseeing the work of professionals who do, ensuring that the work is completed on schedule. He might even be responsible for meeting the maintenance budget and scheduling the shifts of maintenance employees.

Handling Tenant Complaints

A building super typically serves as the middleman between the landlord and his tenants. A tenant will first contact the super when he has an issue with the property. 

Depending on the super’s qualifications and the nature of the issue, she might be able to handle some problems herself, or she might have to contact the landlord to determine how to proceed. This often allows a landlord to avoid dealing with trivial matters, such as changing light bulbs. It leaves him free to handle the important problems, such as a roof leak.

Tenant Turnover

Some form of maintenance is usually required when one tenant moves out and before a new tenant can move in, and a landlord might decide to put her building’s super in charge of this aspect of apartment turnover.

This maintenance can include everything from sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping floors to replacing cracked floor or wall tiles. Grout must be cleaned, and sometimes the unit must be painted as well. Appliances and bathrooms must be cleaned, and all plumbing fixtures must be in working order.

The super should check for any plumbing or roof leaks, make sure heat and air conditioning systems work, check all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and check all door and window locks. She might take care of this work herself, or the landlord might give her permission to hire professional cleaners and repair personnel.

Showing the Rental Property

A building super might also be responsible for showing the rental property to prospective tenants during a vacancy, although she typically would not be responsible for choosing the new tenant. She'll simply give prospective tenants tours of the unit and will collect rental applications for the landlord's review.

The landlord is responsible for actually screening tenants to make sure they qualify to rent the apartment.

The Landlord's Eyes and Ears

A super can give the landlord a heads-up when there's an issue at the property, particularly if she lives on site. Issues might include problem tenants, a tenant with an illegal pet, or a health and safety issue at the property.