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Porters, Handymen, and Doorman, or PHD's Blog
Questions For Supers - 100 to 149



frequently asked questions  ask a question  questions by category


The information given on these question and answer pages has been carefully checked and is believed to be accurate; however, no responsibility is assumed for inaccuracies. The Supers Technical Association reserves the right to make changes to any and all content without notice, and to edit all questions and answers received for accuracy or clarity, or for any other purpose.

Although the Supers Technical Association of New York believes the content to be accurate, complete, and current, the Supers Technical Association makes no warranty as to its accuracy or completeness of the content. It is your responsibility to verify any information before relying on it. The content of this site may include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. From time to time changes will be made, without prior notice, to the content herein.


Question #149: Anyone know of long-lasting battery-pack emergency lighting for prolonged blackouts? Current models I have found are standard at 90 minutes, and may be extended to 3-4 hours at most.  Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: If you go to this website ( you will see some state-of-the-art led lighting schemes. The technology is here, if maybe the applications aren't. Good luck! Eugene Marabello

Answer: The back up lights that you have mentioned are the standard. I have not heard of any back up lights that can keep running for more than 3 to 4 hours. These lights are mainly used for occupants to evacuate a building. Pgrech

Question #148: Our lease is up 9/30/03. We notified the landlord that we would not be renewing and were told that we must paint the entire apartment, or they would paint and charge us. There is no damage to the paint other than normal wear & tear. We are willing to paint the damaged wall but not the whole apartment. Can the landlord withhold our security deposit? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: The landlord CAN withhold your security, the question is can he do so legally? I recommend taking pictures of your apartment. Do the paint touch up that you mentioned. IF he will not return your deposit, then take him to court. Your pictures are worth a thousand words. Make sure they are clear enough and that you use that day's front page of a newspaper to prove the date they were taken. Pgrech

Question #147:  What is acceptable to put in garbage disposals? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: A garbage disposal is made, and installed, to give a homeowner an easy way to dispose of foods and food ingredients, and nothing else. If you want more information, the instructions that come with a new one will give you the facts. Also any plumber who has installed one will be able to tell you what is acceptable for disposal. Here's a link to one brand's installation, use & maintenance manual (PDF file).

Question #146: Board terminated employment of Super living in the building for substantial violations, extortion of money (all records on file). In less than 1 year Management sent him 4 warning letters. He is a union member, but building is nonunion. Now while still occupying apartment, he is posting, on co-op's property, letters full of fabrications, disturbing shareholders and proper operation of the building. He was asked by Management to stop, but ignored and keeps doing it. Can anything be done to stop his illegal actions? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: Your attorney is the most qualified person to answer that question. May I suggest a letter from the Board President, sent to the residents of your building stating the facts. Be warned to stick to facts only -- as opinions, false facts and interpretations may open the board to defamation of character.  On another note, have the staff keep an eye out for the "illegal notices" and have them taken down, but saved for the record. PGrech

Answer: Since he is a union member, the first thing to do is to contact the Union about the situation, if you haven't already done so. They will let you know what you can, and cannot, do to bring resolution to the problem.

Question #145: What does the NEC code say about installing a meter loop on a manufactured home? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: When electricians and others in construction talk about the NEC code they're most always talking about the National Electrical Code (NEC), and I assume that this is what you're referring to. The NEC is the product and responsibility of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and you can purchase a copy of  the most recent National Electrical Code online at the above link. Other sites concerning the NEC can be found by searching Google, entering "NEC Code" as search parameters.

If anyone reading this has a current copy of the Code, maybe they can read it and answer your specific question.

Question #144: What's the legal size of a shed you can build without a permit? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: The answer depends on where you're located. If you're in New York City, check with the Department of Buildings. Start at their website; if you don't find the answer there, call them and speak to someone knowledgeable. If outside of New York City, check the building codes in your locality.

Question #143: How often does the PRV on a standpipe hose rack have to be inspected, according to the DOB? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: Possibly someone else reading this will know the correct answer and write in, but you can start by checking with the Department of Buildings.

Question #142: How do you remove a child window guard that has the one-way screws? I live in an apartment with no children at all, and I'd like to move the air conditioning unit from one window to another. Unfortunately, the other window has the tamper resistant screws. I'm willing to buy a tool if necessary. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: There are tamper proof screw removers, but this tool doesn't work well if the screws have been in the windows for many years. Best way is to drill the head out, then use pliers to remove the screws once the head is broken off. A good hardware store can give you advice on how to do this. Peter Grech

Answer: In cutting off the one way screw-heads, a small hacksaw might be an easier tool with which to work. Once the heads are cut off, remove the guard and use a pliers to unscrew the remainder. David L. Taylor

Question #141: The waste line from our bathtub had to be replaced.  The plumber did a great job of saving our tile and tearing up a 2' section of our floor under our sink.  Now I want to put the tile back.  The substrate in this 2' area is completely busted up into chunks.  It is difficult to tell what the substrate is made of in the untouched section of the floor.   Do I need to remove all of this? It looks like 1" plus of thinset with rubble mixed in and then a tile floor and then our tile floor finally put on top. The building is 80 years old.  Can I thinset the rubble back together and then lay a 1" bed and then re-tile?  Can I completely encase the waste line? Do I need to leave space around the waste line as I tile? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: First thing to do is to remove all loose debris that is present. Yes, you can bury the new waste line. It shouldn't be an issue for many years to come. Use ordinary sand mix (portland cement and sand) available most places, and fill the space up to approximately 1/8 - 1/4" below the bottom level of the tile. After this is set, use thinset to install your tile. Be sure to clean off any old thinset on bottom of tiles. Thinset shrinks, so leave cemented tiles raised slightly above the untouched ones.

Question #140: I rent in a two family building with the landlord living upstairs. I replaced a very old light switch that wasn't working anymore. Behind the switch there was no metal box, the switch was just screwed to wood. I thought this was a fire hazard, and told her about it (she's quite old). She said its been like that for years, why should we worry? Where do I stand legally? Should I be worried? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: Since the building has been around for a long time, and you haven't had problems in the past, you probably won't have any problems in the future, as long as you don't overload the circuit. Overloading the circuit will overheat the wires, which could cause a fire.

Answer: I would forget the legal issues. The installation is unsafe. Report the problem to the Dept. of Buildings. Dick Koral

Question #139: I'm building a shed in my back yard, it's 16' by 10' feet and almost 14' feet high. Do I need a building permit? One of my neighbors said I couldn't do it without one. Is this true in Staten Island? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: Yes, it's true, you need a permit. To get the permit you may have to submit plans.

Answer: In many places - and Staten Island may be one of them - you do NOT need a permit for a "portable" storage shed. Many of these storage sheds of the size you are building are constructed off site and transported to the owner's home. You should be able to find definitive information on this (or find out WHERE to go to find out) at the Department of Buildings website.

Question #138: What should I do when the water from the kitchen sink is backing up into the bathtub? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: Call a competent plumber.

Question #137: I just purchased a co-op in Queens where the mold around the tub caulking was so bad it was literally a black 1/4 line all the way around. I used "caulk be gone", removed all caulk and recaulked myself. All is now white and water tight except for the caulk right in front of faucets. The small section right in front of faucets is still soft and wet. A small constant drip appears to be dripping on it. If I keep a bag over the faucet, the section gets dry but is still mushy. Any ideas? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: Get the leak fixed, then recaulk.

Question #136: My apartment building entrance door has a spring to shut the door after opening and there are glass panels in the door. The door sprung back at me the other day and in trying to stop the door, my hand went through the glass panel and cut my hand very badly (12 stitches and lots of small cuts). Is the landlord negligent in that, first, he didn't use tempered glass, and second, didn't use a damper to slow down the door, instead of a spring? Is he responsible for my medical expenses? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: We do not dispense legal advice. Consult a law professional.

Question #135: I have heard different numbers given for super requirements. Could someone tell me the rules regarding live-in supers. Is living on-site required if the building has over a certain amount of units? What is the magic number of units. If they are not on-site, they can live a certain distance away from the building? How many feet? Miles? If, in a 80 unit building the super is beeper/cell available 24/7 is that acceptable? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: See the answers to Question # 69, and check out the Housing Maintenance Code online.

Question #134: Please let me know the tenant's rights in New York City when an apartment gets flooded. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: Your question is too general. What type of ownership of the building or apartment? Who or what caused the flood? However, generally speaking in most cases when a flood does occur, it is up to the terms of the lease to determine the cure. Also in most cases, the lease states that a tenant should or must have home owner's insurance. PGrech

Answer: Go to: and read. Your first stop should probably be to click on Tenants Rights Guide in the left column. You can probably apply what you read to your own situation.

Question #133: What is a fair monthly rate for a non-live-in super in a 22 apartment walk-up building with the following responsibilities: 1. gathering the trash three times a week; 2. mopping the floors and stairs once a week; removing snow from the front of the building when needed; 3. keeping the basement in good order and clean; 4. remaining "on-call" for various emergencies (he assesses the problem, but is unable to make the repairs himself); 5. giving contractors access (perhaps once every two months). Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: This kind of question CANNOT be answered accurately and fairly without more intimate and firsthand knowledge of the building, in my opinion.

Question #132: I live in a rent stabilized apartment, and I was wondering if the Super has any less responsibility to me than he does to the other tenants in the building. I have a couple of window panes (glass) that have fallen out of the window. Is he required to fix this, or do I need to call the management company? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: In this as in many things, it's "the squeaky wheel that gets the grease". If you complain loud enough and long enough (and accompany that with a liberal tip now and then) you will usually get done what you need to have done in your apartment. That being said, a super has NO LESS responsibility to you, as a rent stabilized tenant, than to the market rate renters. If you're fairly certain that you're being shortchanged because of your rental status, you should probably complain in writing to the management company, but don't really expect that to change things, since the super may be giving you less attention with the tacit agreement of Management.  Keep a copy of all correspondence with management, and if your written complaint to them doesn't produce the results you desire, file a complaint with the City. Check for which agency to go to with your complaint, when/if that becomes necessary.

Answer: The super answers to management. As long as there is no directive forcing him otherwise, in the eyes of all supers, all tenants are equal - rent controlled, rent stabilized or market rent.  There are times of course when tipping is involved, then some tenants may be more equal than others - not in every case but - that's a fact of life. Remember supers are human too. Most are under paid and unappreciated. It should be determined who broke the windows. Then make sure it is the super's responsibility to replace the broken panes of glass.  This is done by asking him/her or the management company. IF it is the super's responsibility, set up a date, if it's not, ask the management company who will be responsible to take care of it. If all else fails, contact the city and have an inspector come and issue a violation, but this is only the last resort. PGrech

Question #131: I’m a Queens co-op apartment owner, and want to get some home improvements done: Kitchen: replacing cabinets with new, removing, replacing & disposing of existing appliances (refrigerator, range, microwave) & adding new dishwasher, replacing floor tiles, installing new countertop, painting walls. Bathroom: replacing medicine cabinet, replacing vanity/sink & painting walls. Super wants $4K including providing countertop & new wood cabinets, providing floor tiles for kitchen, providing paint. I provide appliances. Is (A) $ reasonable; (B) a contract advisable; (C) licenses / insurance./bonds required (D) co-op board restrictions / requirements & (E) other?. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: It's hard to judge without knowing more details, but the price looks reasonable barring complications. You should have a contract spelling out some details, and someone, either you or the contractor, needs to carry insurance (preferably both of you). Most condos/co-ops will let you do very little without their approval, so your first stop should be to contact them to find out what other requirements you will need to meet.

Answer: All that for 4K, give me his name and number so I can use him. Price is good. Contract advisable, for that price you should get the insurance your self don't understand the rest. PGrech

Question #130: I live on the 2nd floor of a four story apartment building. When the tenants on the 3rd and 4th floor use their washing machine, water backs up and overflows into my kitchen sink. Is there any device that I can install to stop this problem? The lease states that any tenant with a machine is in violation of their lease, but management has not enforced this clause. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: Perhaps the problem has nothing to do with the washing machines above your apartment and more to do with a clogged drain pipe just below your apartment. I would suggest that you have the super investigate that possibility. Gene Marabello

Answer: The problem lies with the drain line riser pipe. They are too small to handle the washer pumping a lot of water at one time.
One solution would be that the tenant above have the drain cleared from their apartment down to the first floor or lower if possible.  Another solution is to put a check valve between the drain riser and your trap under the sink. However this solution may not conform to the plumbing codes. The check valve allows water to flow from your sink into the drain but prevents any water backing up. It is a one way flow device.
Peter Grech

Question #129: How can I clean up the appearance of the steam pipe in my bathroom? It currently looks like a cactus: severely chipped, slight rust spots from top to bottom, completely uneven texture. I considered chemical stripper or just sanding, but I was afraid of lead or asbestos or other hazards as the building was built in the 1920's. I'm not a super, just someone who is interested in making his apartment look nicer.  Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: All your fears about that old riser and its paint are valid. Best simple solution is to box it in, then paint the box. If the room depends on this riser for warmth, then make a matrix of small holes near the bottom and top to allow air to flow through and come out warm.

Question #128: Our Steam boiler is malfunctioning. I live in a residential building and the boiler constantly is not turning on and the superintendent has to turn on the boiler manually. The mechanic that we use says that the oil has been mixed with water and that we should change oil company. However, we would like a second opinion on why the boiler is shutting down. Are there any master boiler mechanics that could come and give us an opinion why the boiler is not functioning? I am looking for someone with tons of experience or someone who has been a mechanic for 20 years or more. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: There are many reasons why the burner could be shutting off on safety. 1) Weak or defective ignition transformer 2) Burnt oil residue on the electrodes preventing proper spark 3) Air leaks in the oil supply line and yes, 4) Water in the oil. Call me at 212-982-4803 and I can recommend some competent mechanics. If it turns out to be water in the oil then you might benefit from an additional oil filter. I would recommend a Garber 11BV-WSK oil filter with integral water separator. Jeff Eichenwald

Question #127: I am wondering if I am allowed to use PVC pipes in my basement rather than cast iron pipes. I live in Brooklyn in a 2 family house. I'm trying to replace the cast iron pipes in my basement with PVC pipes. Is this violating any rules? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: It is illegal in NYC (all boroughs) to install PVC, period. No part of the plumbing can be made of PVC. This includes a new installation or a simple repair, one family or multifamily, doesn't matter. However, the code does not state whether PVC can or can not be used outdoors. PGrech

Question #126: A client of mine opened up a 99 cents store in Queens county and would like to put up a canopy sign with his business name on it. Does he need a license or permit to do so? If so, how do we go about getting a license? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: Go to New York City's official site: and search the site, and to the Queens Borough President's site at  You will find which agency to contact, if not the answer to your specific question. Or you may want to start at the Queens office of the Department of Buildings, at

126-06 Queens Blvd., 3rd & 4th Fl., Kew Gardens, NY 11415-1554
Tel: (718) 520-3422  TTY: (718) 520-2445

Answer: You could call two or three awning companies from the Yellow Pages and ask them, you probably will get a faster answer. If the canopy has no pole supports touching the side walk, usually NO permit is required. Also it would depend on how far it will extend out over the sidewalk.

Question #125: Is my super required to assist me with an installation of a window air conditioner? I am on the 4th floor overlooking a sidewalk and I have never installed one before. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: No he is not required to help you, unless it is specified in his job description. But -- most supers are happy to help install air conditioning units for their tenants for a fee. Just remember the law: If the unit extends out past the window 10 inches or more, brackets are needed to support it.

Question #124: I just moved out of a 6 apartment building and my landlord (he owns others) has deducted the cost, $1800.00, to repaint the apartment, which, by the way, hasn't been painted in 7.5 years. Is there any standard for how often a landlord, in an unregulated building, has to repaint? Small claims court -- here I come. Thank for any help. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: Unregulated means UNREGULATED. While there is no set charge a painter charges, it will be hard to say if the amount you were charged is fair or not. The landlord should have receipts and cancelled checks to prove this amount was the amount charged and that the work was actually done and paid for. You should have done a WALK THROUGH with the landlord before handing over the apartment. In the walkthrough the landlord would have told you that you were going to incur charges. Note that charges should only be for DAMAGES that the tenant made and NOT charges for NORMAL wear and tear to the apartment. PGrech

Answer: Go to, there is a forum on that site where you can ask your question and get the best advice. Matt

Answer: Unregulated only means that the amount of rent and renewal increases are not subject to government regulations. All buildings with three or more apartments are still subject to the New York state multiple dwelling law and the New York City housing maintenance code. Landlords are required to paint apartments every three years. Your landlord cannot charge you for painting your apartment. He could withhold some of your security deposit, but only for unusual damages, not normal wear and tear. Jeff Eichenwald

Question #123: I live in New York and I would like to know where can I get a sample of the boiler exam and in what location are exams given.  Click here to post your answer to this question


Answer: Call the NYFD Dept. of Fire Prevention in Brooklyn and they will get you the information you seek. Or go to and put "boiler exam" or something similar in the search engine. PGrech

Question #122: The electricity in my bathroom and my son's bedroom is out, the circuit breaker has power but none of the outlets have power going to them. How do I find the problem? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: You should not play with electricity, get a professional. If you're going to play with it anyway, then this may help: Many buildings use the ceiling light fixtures as a junction where the wires lead to from the breaker, then branch out to the outlets or other fixtures. Some times they are loose or broke.

Answer: With the proper test equipment you, or a licensed electrician, can find the break in the line that you are experiencing.

I would begin with the simple things first like making sure that that circuit breaker wires are screwed on tight. These wires have been know to come loose. Second, check to see if all the wires connected to the outlets are tight. Do this and you have eliminated two of the simplest problems. PGrech

Question #121: What are the licensing requirements of building management in New York City? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: To the best of my knowledge, property managers do not have to be licensed or certified, unless the manager is personally going to collect rent from tenants. The management firm he/she works for MUST have a New York State Brokerage license.  PGrech

Question #120: I have recently hired a mechanic to replace my water heater. He placed the old water heater right outside on the sidewalk. The department of sanitation does not remove the old water heaters! How can I get the old water heater removed now? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: You could try calling a private sanitation company to come and pick it up. Mike MacGowan

Question #119: My apartment is heated by gas and I've discovered that I am also paying to provide heat to the radiators in the vestibule and hallway in my building. My landlord tells me that this is costing me no money and that it is not in violation of the shared meter law. Is this correct? How can it be that two additional radiators are not increasing my gas bill? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: I can't answer the question of whether or not it's legal, but it's not uncommon that a tenant would have part of the building, hallway and/or outside lights on his/her meter. Yes it would certainly increase your monthly bill, ranging from a negligible to an outrageous amount, depending on how much of the landlord's electricity or gas you are paying for. PGrech

Question #118: I want to rent a device to measure carbon monoxide levels. I don't mean an alarm that only goes off when levels reach 30 or 50 parts per million. I want a device with a digital display hopefully going down to one part per million. Any information as to where I can get it will be greatly appreciated. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: Don't know where you can RENT such a device, but you can certainly BUY one at, among other places, Grainger. Their website is at In New York City they have 3 locations in Manhattan (east side, west side, downtown) and one each in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.

Question #117: I have a Carlin 301 burner and I am having an oil leak into the fan area. Could it be that the pump is leaking, and if so is it easy to put a pump on a DAR Kit, or is it better to replace the entire DAR Kit? I have installed a new draw assembly and I still have the oil leak. I also have back pressure from the boiler. I have an HB Smith 19 series boiler. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: It appears that the seal on the pump is leaking (based on our phone conversation). This is not something you can fix yourself. You will need to replace the pump, but not the entire DAR kit. It can be attached to the new pump. Jeff Eichenwald

Question #116:  What is the law regarding where a super is supposed to live in the building, and is the basement one of those places where a landlord could place him? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: There is no specific law stating where a super may or may not live within a building. Some live in the basement, while others live on the first floor or higher. Basement apartments are governed by the Building Codes. If the apartment meets the code requirements, then there is no problem with renting the apartment or having the super live there. PGrech

Question #115: I live on the top floor of a brownstone and am planning on installing a gas range with a downdraft. My question is, rather than creating a new vent in the roof specifically for the range, would it be possible to duct it into one of the existing vents running up through the wall? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: The answer is NO. Gas equipment must have its own vent. PGrech

Question #114: One of the apartments on the second floor of my building has a problem with shower temperature. The shower goes from hot to cold and vice versa by itself with no warning, with the resident being scalded. It  happens in light building shower times as well as heavy. Can I put any kind of regulator on his shower head. Are there such things? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: There is a device known as an Anti Scalding device, which prevents a person from being injured by sudden drops in cold pressure. These are inexpensive and can be purchased from a good hardware store or plumbing supply house. The device simply screws on before the shower head. It will NOT solve the pressure drop problem, only save a person from injury. PeterG.

Answer: You need to install a "heat reducing" shower body. It's the round type, as opposed to the 3 knobs (Hot on left, Cold on right and the director in the middle). MOEN makes a decent one. The thing is, you need to replace the shower bodies, which means breaking the walls, cutting the copper pipes and sweating on the new unit. I recommend hiring a plumber for the latter part. In fact, this is now Code for new construction, so I'm told. The owner may be able to write it off. It also may be of interest to you that below 34th Street in Manhattan, there is generally less pressure, so these things may not work as well. Below the 3rd floor, you should be ok. Jon F. Frank Jr.

Question #113:  I live in the NY Metro area in a highrise rental apartment. How much will it cost me to have someone repaint my 1100 sq. ft. apartment? I am talking about repainting it with white builders paint before I move out? Any ball park estimates will be helpful.  Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: Get at least 3 estimates from competent painting companies, then choose one.

Answer: Not all painters prices are the same. Assuming there is NO plastering and the painting only requires one coat, approximate price is $1,200 - $1,500 and UP. PGrech

Question #112: I manage a 6 unit building in Ridgewood Queens. Lately, tenants have been complaining of mice that they hear in the ceiling and see dead mice under the refrigerator. How can they can be getting into the building and how do we prevent them from entering. How do we get rid of them? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: I had the same problem. It was solved by placing bait in the basement areas and sticky pads in apartments, where I received complaints. Sticky pads were used only to show the tenant that I was actively trying to resolve the problem. I don’t really think they are necessary. This was done by my exterminator. This was over 6 years ago and took maybe several months to eradicate the pest problem. The mice have not returned. The mice were some how brought in and then breeding within the building, causing a serious infestation of my 12 unit building. As it turned out, mice are not a continual problem. As they do not seem to be entering the building from out doors. But I continue to keep the bait traps, as it is at no additional cost, with my monthly extermination service.

Answer: No one can answer your specific questions without actually visiting your building, and a professional can help you best with your pest problems. So first and foremost, immediately retain the services of a reputable, professional extermination service. If they have good training and long experience, most if not all of your questions will be answered (many of the better exterminators take refresher and update courses many times a year), and you WILL keep the mouse -and other pest populations - under control. One of the best we know is a member of the Club: Metro Pest Control, Inc. 718-803-0000. Dick Koral

Question #111: Our Co-op is 8 1-bedroom apartments, in a brown stone building in Brooklyn. How many times should we use roto-rooter for our building's sewer pipe for preventive maintenance? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: We have our house traps done annually, along with the boiler cleaning in the summer. I wouldn't recommend anything else . Jon Frank

Answer: I believe you should wait until there are signs that the drain is starting to clog. I would not consider this a routine procedure. Dick Koral

Question #110: I would like to go an elevator maintenance school to get certified. Where and how can this be done? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: While I don't know where you would go to get certified or where there are schools for elevator repairs, your best bet would be to call a few elevator companies and ask them this question. PGrech

Question #109: I'm moving out of the dorms and into my first Manhattan apartment next month. What should I keep in mind when asking my super to fix things? Am I expected to tip for normal repairs? Or is there an introductory tip when I first get there? I just want to get off on the right foot, and I'm not sure what's typical in Manhattan. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: You may want to forget "typical" and go for something better, but I guess it depends on what you mean by typical. A tenant's relationship with his/her super is as interesting and varied as your other personal relationships. Speaking as a super, I don't think an introductory tip is necessary (although nice, and I've never turned one down), but a token of appreciation when a timely repair is made is always appreciated, and kind of the way things work here in NYC. And if you can remember your super at Christmas time as well, you just may have a devoted handyman on call. Put yourself in the super's shoes for a minute, the Golden Rule is as applicable here as anywhere.

Question #108: How can I go about finding a super's job? And are there any companies that hire for that particular job. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: You can start by perusing the ads on our jobs page and calling those that interest you. Keep coming back because there are new ones almost every week. Check the ads in the local daily and Sunday papers and on their websites, and call the companies who run those ads, even if you're not interested in a particular job posting, because those who do so sometimes develop relationships with companies wanting to run ads in particular fields, and can give you guidance. It does help if you have experience, and lacking that, you may want to try for a very small building at first to gain some experience, or, look for a handyman job where you can then parlay the experience you gain into something bigger, either in the same building or another place.

Question #107: I have been asked, by the manager of a 20 1-bedroom unit low-income not-for-profit building, and has about a 30% turnover each year, who wishes to know how this rate compares to the average for other low-income buildings. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: I asked my friend who runs a low income property, and his building has a 22% per year turn over.

Answer: You might try searching for answers to your questions at There is much housing research there.

Question #106: Should a non-licensed, non-certified person be repairing C violations (lead paint, cracking ceilings)? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: Lead paint is only an issue if there are young children in the apartment, 6 years old or younger. If there are children 6 or younger, then the painter must follow the lead abatement rules. There is nothing in the Codes that I know of, that the painter must have a certification to do the work - only that they follow the rules.

Question #105: What is the salary range for a live-in superintendent? Should the lunch hour be paid as a working hour? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: It's impossible to know the answer to your question without more information, but just generally, salaries for supers vary as much as building sizes, and depend on lots of factors, such as number of staff, whether or not it's a unionized building, whether it's self-managed or by a professional management firm, etc. The variables go on and on. And if you're really paying a SALARY to someone, you don't have to worry about whether or not a lunch hour is paid.

Question #104: I just moved into a new place. The super asked me for $300. I did not say I would pay him that, I agreed to tip. The landlord never told me about this and it's not in my lease. The super has told me "Where is my money?" Yesterday I told him I'd give him $50 but that's it. He got angry and said that if he would have known this he wouldn't have referred me to the landlord. I am very upset because I think am being scammed. Now I am sure that the super is never going to fix anything in my apartment. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: Only YOU can really know if you are being scammed, but it sure looks like it to me, from the little you've said. Whatever arrangement was made between you and him, you both are duty-bound to honor it, as long as it's legal. But one thing is certain: IF the super will refuse to fix things in your apartment because you didn't pay him what was agreed on (even if you both agree that the amount was what he said it was), then he is wrong and is behaving unethically. In that case you should report him to the landlord or the managing agent responsible for the building. This is all a very nebulous area, and a true 'he said/she said' situation, but he can and should be fired IF he does not take care of things in your apartment which are his responsibility.

Answer: Charging anyone for showing/renting an apartment is illegal. It's called "key money." To find better answers to this question, you need a website geared towards tenants rights. Go to this website: Post the same question there and they may be able to help you find a good way to proceed.

Question #103: I'm moving into an 80 unit building in Brooklyn soon. I found out too late that the landlord threw out the original 1940's / 50's style 30" stove and is replacing it with a new appliance. Does anyone have one of these old 30" stoves? Or could you direct me to anyone who might have any? Thanks very much for any help. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: I'm pretty sure that several manufacturers still make 30 inch stoves. A Google search will help you.

Answer: If you want an old stove, try posting & searching on Craigslist.

Question #102: My number six oil low pressure steam boiler starts making a loud humming noise about ten minutes after it first starts to make steam. The noise can be heard in my apartment on the ground floor and also on the second floor, in the boiler room and in the basement. The noise is not as bad in the boiler room as it is in the other areas. What should I be looking at to stop the humming noise? Could it be dirt in the steam lines or surface impurities in the boiler? Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: This is a difficult question to answer without being there. May I suggest you call your boiler maintenance company for help. It could be vibration. PGrech

Question #101: I am looking for a job description and duties for a superintendent, is there one that can be e-mailed to me. Click here to post your answer to this question

Answer: I have one and I would be happy to forward it to you. E-Mail me at

Answer: There really is no written job description that would cover all supers in all types of buildings. Not from the union and not from anywhere else. The job description for a particular superintendent job will cover that job only. Another job may have some of the same components, but add other duties, and take away still others. It's up to the owner or management to come up with a list of duties that are expected to be provided by an individual super, hopefully (but not necessarily) in conjunction with the super himself. That list of duties will vary greatly due to the size of the building, the number of staff members, the involvement and expectations of management, whether it's a condo/co-op or a rental, even the neighborhood the building is in, along with many other lesser factors.

Question #100: I am moving into a new apartment on 3/22/03 in Manhattan and have found the four pipes running through my apartment from floor to ceiling to be extremely hot. My heater was off all day and it is still about 90 degrees. The pipes (my guess: water pipes) are of course too hot to touch. What can be done to take care of this problem? Will insulating do it? Is the landlord responsible for fixing this problem? It is too hot now to stay in the apartment for any length of time, I can not imagine what summer will be. I would appreciate a speedy e-mail reply. Click here to post your answer to this question
Answer: Your super, who should probably attend our meetings to learn a little about his heating system, is the only one who can control the boiler. The city housing code only states that you should have a minimum temperature during the winter and no concern about a maximum one.

Your landlord should be ashamed of himself. With the cost of fuel as it is, he should be trying to conserve fuel use and run his building more efficiently. What's really driving the housing market is the limited amount of housing available in the city. He doesn't care to correct anything because he has passed his inefficiencies on to the renter.

The only solution I see for you: Go to Home Depot or a plumbing supply and pick up some fiberglass pipe wrap. It runs about a dollar a foot and is easy to install. It's round and has about a one inch wall thickness around. It has a split surface for wrapping around a pipe. It's the best insulation for your situation. If you have complained to the owner and he hasn't responded or doesn't care, I see insulating the pipes as the only remedy for your problem. I think you may have an issue with the Housing Department, if you don't have radiators in those other rooms. I hope I've been of some help. Good luck!