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Porters, Handymen, and Doorman, or PHD's Blog
Questions For Supers - 150 to 199



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 #199: I just wanted to know, being that I'm a live-in building superintendent in a co-op building (43 units), that I should be in a union? And do you think that I should ask management if I could join a union. Post your answer

Answer: The Superintendents Technical Association has both union and non-union members. It is the Association's policy NOT to get involved with questions of union versus non-union. Sorry we can't help you. This is a choice YOU alone have to make. Pgrech

Answer: You can get more info on which to base your decision from the union's website at

Question #198: I live in a 20 story building with about 260 units. This is a post war building with central heating and air conditioning, with oil fired boiler. When I inquired about adding a roof deck I was advised that this would be unhealthy and that people that used it could literally turn green. I was never able to get another explanation. Other than structural issues, what are other areas of concern with adding a roof deck, especially health concerns. Post your answer

Answer: There may indeed be health issues: If I read the question right you are in a central air-conditioned building, so there is usually a cooling tower. The cooling tower many years ago was responsible for Legionnaires Disease. Poor maintenance of this equipment can lead to sickness. The cooling tower water has chemicals added to it. So a proper answer depends on the maintenance of the cooling tower, as well as how close any planned deck is to the cooling tower. Pgrech

Answer: There are NO health concerns with adding a roof deck, unless you want to consider the construction noise from building it, or the sunburn you might get from sunning yourself on it. Whoever told you that a roof deck could turn you green is either a kook or was playing with you.

Question #197: Where can I find a standard sprinkler/standpipe inspection form to use for my monthly inspections? Post your answer

Answer: This is a very simple form you can get from any superintendent who has a standpipe and sprinkler system in their building. If you still have a problem getting the forms feel free to contact me at, we can work something out and make them available to you. Roberto Cardona

Question #196: I just recently moved into a home converted to 4 different units. The heat is included, and that is the problem. Under habitability laws, how warm must the landlord keep the home. I have talked to several residents and they to have said the place is extremely cold. On average 58-62 degrees. Post your answer

Answer: It appears, after reading some of the applicable law about landlords supplying heat in the Housing Maintenance Code AND the section on heat in the Multiple Dwelling Law, that your heat may be below the minimums set by those laws. However, the question remains whether or not the building in which you live comes under these laws or not. I believe it does, but it's something you must determine for yourself. You can always call 311 and file a heat complaint when you believe the heat is too low, and take it from there.

Question #195: In my refrigerator water is leaking out on the floor, while is it on. Can anyone tell me what is the problem. Post your answer

Answer: Unless your refrigerator is very old, it has a plastic catch pan to collect condensation at the bottom, whether it's self-defrosting or not. It could have a hole or be missing. If you have an ice making unit, the feed system could be leaking.

Answer: Your drain hose may also be plugged. You will see it coming from the rear of the fridge leading down to the pan. Pull it off, blow it out with your mouth, or compressed air if need be. Plug back in and you are flying.

Question #194: Where can you go to get a supers license. Post your answer

Answer: Briefly, there is no "Supers License" yet, although there are Certificates of Fitness and Licenses needed to show you can operate and maintain certain equipment specific to your job. Please read related questions & answers on our FAQs Page, and also on the Supers & Management Page.

Question #193: I have a large garage door in my building and have been having lots of trouble with it. The repair companies I've used haven't been very good, and I'm shopping around for another. Anyone have a suggestion? Post your answer

Answer: I found this very reliable company called Guardian Gates. I have a contract with them. They will respond the same day or if the emergency is extreme within a few hours ( depending on the time of day) The number is (718) 725-4700. Chris Christensen

Question #192: The landlord provides heating in our apartment block. What are his responsibilities regarding when the heating comes on and how long it stays on? Post your answer

Answer: The very basic minimum requirements for heat are enforced by the City; further information is available here.

Question #191:  I did some painting recently in my apartment and stupidly, I painted some of the standing heater. I've been smelling a funny chemical smell, which I think is coming from the heater. I have no idea what to do and am scared of telling my landlord. Is it possible that the paint is burning when the heater is on? will my landlord be very mad? Post your answer

Answer: You are probably not in trouble with the landlord. Without further information on what "heater" you have in your apartment, I'm guessing it's a cast iron steam or hot water radiator? And painting them is, while not necessarily an absolute no-no, not a particularly good thing either. It will look better if you paint it, but will also be insulated better, which you don't want - in most cases you want as much heat from it as possible. Probably what you are smelling is the fresh paint cooking (burning), and in a few days or weeks, when the paint cures, the smell will stop. If you got paint on the vent, however, you should call the landlord or super and have it replaced (a few dollars to buy), because you may have stopped it up, which will prevent it from doing its job. The vent must work if you want heat distributed evenly in the radiator.

Question #190: I am a NJ licensed Stationary Engineer (1-C Blue Seal steam/prime mover). I work at a cogeneration plant in NJ and have about three years power plant experience. Due to possible lay-offs, and lack of power plant/boiler operator jobs here in NJ, I am interested in testing for a NYC high pressure boiler operators license to open up some new opportunities. My question is simple: Will NYC accept my work experience and allow me to take the exam? I've tried the web site, but it doesn't specifically state anything about work experience or reciprocity involving out of state licensed individuals. Post your answer

Answer: Experience is experience. As long as you can prove it there should be no problem. New York also requires that you have three reference letters from three different Licensed Stationary Engineers prior to taking the test. Pgrech

Question #189: What is the average tip doormen receive in New York City for Christmas? Post your answer

Answer: There really is no "average tip". Read the FAQs page for some thoughts from building support personnel, also scan the other question and answer pages, especially the Supers & Management category page, for more info on tipping.

Question #188: My new landlord is planning to install an electronic key/magnetic lock proximity card system at our entrance doors. The tenants are concerned with the failure rate of this new system and the restriction of access to the building. Are landlords allowed to restrict access to the entrance doors (in rent stabilized buildings). Do these systems fail during blackouts? How else might they fail? Post your answer

Answer: There is no Code limiting the use of card entry, as opposed to key entry, for rent stabilized apartments. If the landlord is wise, he would install a battery back up, which would not cost much more to install. I prefer the old key system, but that's just me. Keep in mind that even though you pay rent, it is still the landlord's property, and therefore he can restrict entry only to tenants and family who live with them. Visitors are treated the same way as the usual key way. By using a card system, it is better protection for the building in general as you can not make copies and give them out to people. Pgrech

Question #187: Does anyone know of any good sheetrockers available in Brooklyn? Post your answer


Question #186: I am a super of 2 years. I do the cleaning, painting, fixing walls, floors and plumbing. I get 160 dollars a month that I never see and I have to pay rent. There are 6 apartments in the building and 2 stores which I clean also. She is trying to make me pay back rent also, 1000 for a two and a half room apartment. Do I have any rights? Post your answer

Answer: Your rights now, 2 years after hiring, depend in large part on the agreement in effect at the time of your hiring. If you have nothing in writing to spell it out, then your owner has the upper hand, and you have two main choices, neither of them ideal: you can stay and live with it or you can find another job. The only other choice is to negotiate a better deal with your landlord, but since supers of small buildings come so cheaply, it will be very easy for her to replace you instead of negotiating with you. You have 2 years experience now, so I suggest you start looking for another job. Write a resume, incorporate your previous work experience if it helps, and go for it. There are many jobs available on this site. You may be able to find a much better position for a lot more money.

Question #185: I'm the super of a 50 unit Co-op on Long Island. My manager informed me that when my vacation time comes I cannot go on vacation unless I find a replacement. Is that my responsibility or the manager's responsibility? Also, is this replacement required to live in my apartment while I am away? Post your answer

Answer: All policy is predicated on a mutual understanding between a super and the management/board/owner. It sounds as though you have not been at this building more than a year. If no agreement was made when you were hired, I think that the board/manager should be responsible for the fill-in super. They are the only ones that can assess the substitutes' qualifications and abilities. Also, no other super should need to use your apartment while you are on vacation. I am a super in LI and I would not stand for the board/manager telling me I'm responsible for the covering super. Stand your ground and insist that it's not your responsibility. Also, it should be a predetermined (what was the policy BEFORE you arrived) policy and what that person will be paid to take your place. Good Luck! Gene Marabello

Question #184: I have lived for 14 years in a Manhattan basement apartment and have just discovered that there is only one gas and one electric meter for me, hallway lights on six floors, outside lights etc. = shared meter with the landlord for which I have paid the entire bill. Before now the meters were behind a wall which was ripped down and updated meters installed. Upon asking the landlord he played dumb. As if MAYBE before they updated the meters, they were separate, but I saw with my own eyes the situation yet was too sluggish to investigate until now. I have many years' worth of bills but not all 14 years. I was barely home except to sleep, and knew the bills were high. Where to turn? Post your answer

Answer: Your situation is not uncommon. Most small buildings where the landlord does not live on premises use an existing apartment in the same way.  Contact the landlord and try to resolve it. Otherwise, as a last resort, call HPD. PGrech

Answer: Call NY State Public Service Commission's Complaint Line: 800-342-3377. They can help you. They have a direct connection into the utility's computer and can bring your Con Ed bills up on their screen. This unit of PSC is one of the state's best kept secrets! Dick Koral

Question #183: I live in a building that has 43 apartments. I'd like to know if we're supposed to have a super on the premises? Post your answer

Answer: The number of units in the building is only one factor among many. And, it's OK for the super to live, rather than IN the building, within several hundred feet of the building. Someone will no doubt be able to answer you with more clarity, but for starters read the applicable question and answer on the FAQs page. Also, look under Categories: Supers & Management and read the questions and answers there, especially Question #69.

Question #182: I need the phone number to report lack of heat in my building. Post your answer

Answer: 311. This is now the only number to use for ALL non-emergency calls to the City. Lack of heat in your building, while it is important especially as it gets colder, comes under non-emergencies. That number is 311. (See the advertisement for 911 and 311 in the right column of this page).

Question #181: What are the rules for permanently affixing window gates/bars to the exterior of a building? Is this consider a fire hazard? What is the NYC Building Code, if any, for this? Post your answer

Answer: The New York City Health Code (Section 131.15) requires DOHMH-approved window guards to be installed and maintained by the owner, manager, or agent of a multiple dwelling (building with three or more units). Each year, landlords or managers must give tenants a form that should be filled out and returned to inform the building landlord or manager if a child ten years of age or younger lives in the apartment. The tenant should also provide information on whether window guards need repair, or if window guards are requested even if no children live in the apartment. Tenants may not refuse window guards if they have a child ten years of age or younger living in the apartment. Dick Koral

Answer: First of all, safety bars are a safety code in multistory buildings in NYC where children are present. I'm sure that safety bars are not an issue so long as there is access to and from the apartment above the guard. Gates that cover the entire window must have quick releases or similar device to allow the quick opening of the gate in the event of a fire or other emergency requiring egress through the window. Gene Marabello

Question #180: I'm renting an apartment in which my bedroom shares a common wall with my roommates bedroom, which creates an issue with respect to sound/privacy. I would like to know what is the most economical soundproofing solution (under $200), which would be easy to install, limiting the use of glue so as not to damage the wall upon removal? Post your answer

Answer: What really kills sound transmission is mass. Try rearranging both rooms to put as much furniture against the wall as possible. Heavy hangings (art, drapes, etc.) will also help here. A real job would be much more than $200 and involve measures that would alter the wall cavity. Another strategy is to buy a "white noise" device that masks other noise. Look in electronics stores. Dick Koral

Question #179: In the building that I work they have 4 gas boilers and 2 pumps. On the 3rd floor hallway the radiator does not get hot, but on the other floors the radiators are hot. The radiator valve on the 3rd floor is turned on. If I turn the temperature up it still doesn't get hot. I would like to know what is the problem. Post your answer

Answer: It is not possible to answer your question with so few facts about your heating system. However, one does suspect that the radiator is air bound. See if bleeding the air out of it helps. If not, one might suspect that the radiator valve is in need of repair or replacement, or that the radiator is so full of rust particles that they block the flow. Dick Koral

Question #178: Where can I rent an insulation pumping machine to pump into my home's outside walls? Post your answer

Answer: The short answer is DON'T try to do it yourself. Blowing insulation into a wall is a tricky business. Do find three insulation contractors in the Yellow Pages, check out their credentials and talk to customers who have use them, before selecting one. Dick Koral

Question #177: What license is required by New York to manage a boiler of a residential building? If there is one, how/where can you get one, and what does it cost? Post your answer

Answer: Precisely, one does not need a "license" to operate ("tend") a boiler in NYC except for very high pressure boilers, as used in power plants and very large institutions. In the world of housing, we are talking about low pressure (max. 15 psi) boilers. Then, two "Certificates" are required only if one is attending a heavy oil (#6) boiler. (1) a Certificate of Instruction in Air Pollution Control from NYC Dept. of Environmental Control (DEP) and (2) a Certificate of Fitness for Operators of Heavy Oil Burners from the Fire Dept. Get the details from DEP's and FD's pages on Dick Koral

Answer: Go to Exams & Certificates of Fitness on this website and read, specifically questions 8, 11, 23, 45, 71, & 123. Also read pertinent questions and answers on our FAQs page. There's plenty on those two pages to get you started on your quest.

Question #176: I have a GE Profile Quiet Power II dishwasher, model GSD402Z02BB, installed in August 1998. It has begun to spray black spots of a grease-like substance from the spray arm. Repeatedly running distilled vinegar cleans some of the grease, but it comes right back! Any ideas as to what is causing this continuing problem? Post your answer

Answer: If you don't have yours anymore, you can get an owner's manual at, besides getting lots of other information on your appliance. Unless someone responds who has experience with your particular model or the line generally, there will probably be no really good answer forthcoming. Ultimately you may have to make a decision between having a serviceman come out for between $100 and $200, or live with it and keep cleaning it as you are doing now.

Question #175: Can sewer gases back up into my basement from an unused toilet? The toilet has no water in it. Post your answer

Answer: Yes. The wet seal acts as a filter to keep out the gases and the same can be said about the hand basin, the bathtub ,as well as your kitchen sink drain lines. Roberto Cardona

Answer: YES.  The water in the bowl acts as a "wet seal", keeping the vent gases from entering the apartment. PGrech

Answer: Yes, the water does act as a wet seal. In order to keep the sewer gases out be sure to keep water in the toilet bowl. Adding two gallons of water to the bowl once each month will solve this problem. Joe Hogan

Question #174: Is the owner of the building allowed to dock the pay for a sanitation violation ticket issued for improper stacking of cardboard boxes? Post your answer

Answer: It is not unusual for an owner to make the super pay for the summons. However, in many cases the landlord will do so after a few summons have been paid: Landlord pays the first one or two tickets and gives you a warning that he will dock you the next time. PGrech

Question #173: In Manhattan a 20 Unit building has a fire exit that exits into a vacant lot. The lot is not owned by the building and is kept locked with a chain link fence. Is it legal to put the exit into someone else's property with permission. Post your answer

Answer: The fire code only requires egress to leave the building. However, the owner of this building should check into this issue and in particular see if there is an egress rider on the other building's deed. If this empty lot is ever developed, then there could be an egress problem with the Buildings Department. If not, then ultimately it is this building owner's responsibility to comply with the fire code. Jeff Eichenwald

Answer: Your question brings up a legal issue that we cannot answer on this site. However with or without permission, the fire escape must be available for the residents to exit the building without running into any obstructions. A locked gate that cannot be opened by the person exiting the fire escape is such an obstruction.  Your question may bring up new questions that will end up in costing a lot of money to cure. I am not saying that any one should put money before safety. But it is an issue if your building cannot afford to reroute the fire escape to the street. PGrech

Question #172: I am a superintendent. A building manager also works in the same building. I would like know if it is the super's and porter's responsibility to clean the tenant vents. All of the apartments are occupied. Post your answer

Answer: See the answers to question # 152. Also see this question and answer about duties and responsibilities of a super on the FAQs page.

Question #171: Can you help me find information on energy efficiency retrofits for multiple dwellings? Post your answer

Answer: The principal agency relating to energy in NY Sate is the NYS Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA). Go to and get all the information you will need, including incentive grants.

Answer: Go to Google search, put in energy efficient retrofits" + "multifamily buildings as your search parameters. You'll find many leads, links and much information, much more than you can quickly digest.

Question #170: I live in an 18 unit co-op and our superintendent / property manager is also an owner-occupant, is on our board of directors, and is a real estate broker who has sold units in this building. Is this unethical or illegal or neither? Post your answer

Answer: There are several issues here. First, with a building this small, I would suggest as we have done in my building (a 20 unit co-op), that you change the by-laws to make all shareholders members of the board. You can still have a reduced number necessary for a quorum. The main issue is that all meetings, whether shareholder or board meetings, are open to all. This eliminates the cliques that often form between the board and the rest of the building. The main conflict in your building is that the building manager and super are the same person. Normally, the manager supervises the super. Since that is not possible, I would suggest that either a different person be super or that someone else on the board act as the supervisor for the job of building superintendent. Finally, it is not really a conflict to have a building owner act a broker. In fact, this person, since they also live in the building, would have more of an incentive to find a responsible buyer for any unit sold. Jeff Eichenwald

Answer: No, it is not illegal to have the super be the manager, owner, on the board and the broker.  Is it ethical to have one person wear so many hats? Since you raised the question, I guess you don't think it is.  Personally, I think the manager and or super Should NOT be on the board.  IF this situation has worked, and worked well in the past with no conflict of interest, then why not. I personally would think that it is unethical or at the very least a large conflict of interest.  It is VERY rare indeed that one person has so much power within a building. I recommend talking to Mary Ann Rothman of Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums. Peter Grech

Question #169: I'm a building super of a 44 unit building in Queens, and I'm receiving $251.00 dollars a week after tax. I want to know if by law, I am entitled to time and half pay for the observed holiday I worked and seek pay compensation? Post your answer

Answer: See the answer to Question #152, a similar and related question.

Question #168: I just bought a co-op in Queens that has an old style flush valve toilet. I want to replace the toilet. Among other reasons, on a few occasions I returned home to find it was flushing continuously - perhaps all day. The downstairs neighbor has threatened to go to the co-op board if there is another day when the toilet runs endlessly all day long. Is there any advantage to getting a new tank type toilet? Post your answer

Answer: Whether you elect to replace the flush valve or replace the entire water closet with a tank type, you must now get a low-volume unit. It is likely that the new low-flush valve will not completely flush the old style bowl. Talk to your plumber to get the pros and cons. Another point: Talk to your super. What is his or her experience with maintenance of the two types. That may be the clincher. Dick Koral

Answer: There is no real advantage to changing to a tank type toilet. To renovate from a flush valve style toilet, the plumbing would have to be redirected to come out of the bottom to feed the tank, which means you would have to either break the tiles to set the pipe in the wall, or you would have to lay the pipe over tile, which is unsightly. Flush valves do work great, and actually they use less water than tank toilets, and flush better too. PGrech

Answer: Your problem is quite common; I've worked on flush valve toilets for years. A number of things may cause this to occur: the parts inside your flush valve (diaphragm) head may be worn or damaged and simply need replacement. You may also have air in your line, or the diaphragm may have "residual" which occurs during shut downs. Many people do switch to toilets with tanks, because during a shut down (the water supply to a line of bathrooms are turned off), when the main water line is opened again air has to be vented out of the lines, and if you are not home the combination of air and water in your toilet can cause flooding in your apartment. as well as the one downstairs. With the tanked toilet, that problem is eliminated because when the tank fills up the water is shut off automatically, therefore no flooding in your apartment. Roberto Cardona

Question #167: We are a 50-unit coop in Brooklyn, with a resident super. If the super is absent on vacation or leave, or has been suspended or terminated, what are our interim coverage requirements, and for how long may they properly last (for example, must we have a 40 hr/week temp at all times, or will a part-timer suffice for a few weeks)? Are there any firm rules? I didn't see any provision for interim arrangements in city housing code. Post your answer

Answer: According to the NYC Housing Maintenance Code, the building with 9 or more apartments must have a person performing "janitorial services" on call 24/7. He/she need not live in the building. Name, address, phone number of janitor must be posted prominently, preferably in the mailbox lobby. [NYC Administrative Code Sec 27-2052 to 2055].

Answer: There are few firm rules about this particular situation. The answer to this could be interpreted differently by reasonable people, based on a fair reading of the applicable laws. Neither the Multiple Dwelling Law (New York State's applicable law) nor the Housing Maintenance Code (New York City's applicable law) address the specific issue of interim "janitor", as they are referred to in the Housing Maintenance Code. It could therefore be logically and practically inferred (certainly by this writer) that what you reasonably do in the best interest of the residents of the building will be acceptable in the short term.

Question #166: Before we signed a lease, we discussed floor refinishing with the super. He said it would cost $200. but I said I wanted the landlord to cover it since the floors were crappy. On lease signing day, the landlord told the super in front of us that he would pay him to finish the floor. The landlord said we should probably tip him. On moving day, we gave the super $70 and thanked him for a wonderful job. Now the super is repeatedly asking us for $200 since everyone who moves in pays him $200 he says. We keep telling him that wasn't an agreement we made with him or the landlord but he keeps asking. English is not his 1st language. We're fearful he may deny service and we're afraid to ask him anything. Is this legal? Any suggestions? Post your answer

Answer: This happened in the old days, and was called key money. In modern times supers for the most part do not do this kind of thing. If he did not do any service to you that was not covered under your lease, then his requesting money from you is illegal. I would try one more time in explaining to him that you owe him nothing. Do it in writing, and mention that you did tip him 70 bucks and if he persists then your only recourse would be to inform management. He is obligated by law and by his employment to the landlord to repair in a quick and competent manner any problems that arise and that are covered by your lease. If he fails to do that, then you have legal rights. In the end, I am not sure if all this is worth it. No one likes to be squeezed, and we here at the Supers Technical Association find it distasteful and it undermines everything that the club stands for. Good luck. PGrech

Answer: If you did not specifically agree at any time to pay him the $200 in question, then you have no moral or legal obligation to pay it, no matter what the other incoming tenants have paid him previously. Furthermore, it borders on -- if it isn't outright -- extortion, and no super should be allowed to get away with that. If he subsequently withholds normal services, or fails to do timely repairs, because he feels you still owe him the money, it could fairly be judged as extortion, and you should complain to management. If management fails to address the issue with the super and end the matter once and for all, you certainly have a right to take it further. Good supers abhor this kind of behavior.

Question #165: Is a landlord required by law to paint an apartment every time someone new signs a lease/moves into an apartment? Post your answer

Answer: No. Landlord is only obligated to paint once every three years or as required by law for Rent Controlled and/or Rent Stabilized leases. Read more in New York City's Housing Maintenance Code, and more specifically: Subchapter 2, Article 3. PGrech

Question #164: Our landlord states that they filed for a permit to install a gas boiler when the weather was still warm. They say due to red tape it is taking longer than expected, and it will be another 4-6 weeks before we'll have heat. I'd like to be able to find out from the City "when exactly" they filed, if they got all the permits they need and if its really supposed to take 4-6 weeks to install a gas line and to hook up a gas boiler. Can I find this out on my own? Post your answer

Answer: Not sure about the red tape. However, New York City and New York State laws state that the landlord MUST provide HEAT after Oct 1, when the temperature goes below 55 degrees, and must maintain an indoor temp of 68 between the hours of 6 am and 10 pm. All other times the landlord must provide heat and maintain an indoor temp of 55 when the temp is below 40 [See heat requirements page]. THAT'S THE LAW.  THE courts do not accept ANY excuses PERIOD. Your landlord is obligated to find other means of providing heat if the heating plant is unable to do so. PGrech

Question #163: What is the typical number of domestic water, steam, gas, and waste pipe risers on a typical 6-10 story brownstone building? Post your answer

Answer: Each apartment must be served by cold water supply, hot water supply, and waste plumbing risers for each bathroom and each kitchen. Also, in a typical small apartment building, one combination steam supply - condensate return riser. That's 7. But, depending on the layout, kitchens and baths that share a common wall with other kitchens or baths in the same or adjacent apartment will share the plumbing risers. From the aforesaid, you can figure how many risers there are. Hint: Look at the number of plumbing pipes that penetrate the roof. Multiply by 3. Then add the steam riser and you have your answer. Dick Koral

Question #162: Can anyone tell me whether or not my landlord is required to provide me with phone jacks in my apartment? Post your answer

Answer: Verizon is required to install a network interface as part of your service (there may already be one in place from a previous tenant). Building owners are not required to pay for this.

Answer: The landlord is required to provide only a "network interface," usually a large box somewhere in the apartment, according to a Verizon rep. The tenant is responsible for the phone jacks. I suggest that you call Verizon for assistance (which will not be free!).

Answer: The network interface is just a bit larger than a normal jack, and has a jack in it. It is usually placed as near as possible to the point of entrance of the phone line into the apartment.

Answer: Phone jacks, like cable connections, are not part of the landlord's responsibility, unless specified in your lease. PGrech

Answer: Of course it depends on the lease or rental agreement that you signed, but no lease/rental I've ever heard of has provided that the landlord installs your phone jacks for you. Normally the phone company must install at least one when the service is turned on -- if there are none available already -- and will install more for you if you wish, for a fee. If you want more installed now, call any of those people looking for work on our Situations Wanted page. At least some of them would be happy to help you out.

Question #161: We live in a large 100 year old prewar apartment building in Manhattan. The two apartments above us are experiencing an occasional intense smell of sewage in a bedroom. There is no evidence of leaks but the smell is coming from a wall that does contain two pipes in it -- the pipes are perhaps six inches in diameter, probably run the full length of the building, and do not appear to go directly to any bathrooms. The smell is particularly intense when there is a strong wind outside. The super is pretending the problem does not exist as the smell is not always present. He opened the wall, looked at the pipe and did nothing. Please, what are the possible causes of this? Again, there is no evidence of leaks. Post your answer

Answer: Every drain pipe riser is accompanied by a vent pipe. The vent pipe, which is tied into the drain pipe riser at each floor, allows the gases and air to move upwards so the drain and sewer water can move downwards. The vent under normal conditions is NOT carrying any waste. It only carries gases. These vents are made of galvanized pipe. So when they break or crack they will leak gases (including methane), yet not leave any trace of a leak other than a smell. If your building is 100 years old, that is your problem: the vent is leaking gas. Peter Grech

Question #160:  I am a Superintendent, working in Brooklyn. Are there any maintenance courses that I can take to upgrade my skills or better myself. Post your answer

Answer: There are many. In Brooklyn, City Tech has a great line of courses in building maintenance. The best thing for you to do is come to our next Club meeting (this month there's only one for all our members and friends -- in Manhattan on 34th Street, but we normally have meetings both in the Bronx and in Brooklyn), and ask anybody there for guidance. We will be glad to point you in the right direction.

Question #159: We live in a big old pre-war building. Occasionally there has been a strong chlorine smell in the taps or shower -- to the point where it stings the eyes. The city says it is not them and they have tested the water inlet. It is something in the building? Any ideas? Post your answer

Answer: Chlorine is in the water that the City supplies. Ordinarily, it comes out of solution only when the water is heated. For some reason, the escaping gases from your building's domestic hot water heating system is bubbling up to your tap. Of course, you could periodically run the hot water faucet and allow it to escape. But a plumber should be brought in to install a vent to the roof. This should not be very expensive. Dick Koral

Answer: This sounds like a serious problem which has to be fixed right away.  I can't believe that the water department just said it wasn't a supply source problem. I would think that the quality of domestic water should be an EPA issue.  Has someone checked whether it could be a situation with a faulty back flow check valve -- maybe coming from a laundry room?  I have back flow check valves on my washers.  It's a long shot but I think it has something to do with a back flow problem in the building.

Answer: It is extremely unlikely that enough chlorine in the potable water would escape to cause burning in your eyes. It is more likely caused by a large amount of chlorine in the waste piping due to discharge from clothes washing machines or chlorine saturated waste water being dumped into a sink. It is possible that there is a trap problem somewhere. I would look for the problem in the drainage system before I would suspect the water supply. Jeff Eichenwald

Question #158: I was a superintendent almost 5 years, two buildings no helper, and the new manager fired me without reason. I don't have a contract, and did not get any vacation or vacation money.  I just want to know, is there anything I can do about it. Can I go to the court (actually which court) or some thing else. Post your answer

Answer: Call the Department of Labor, they will interview you, and then can tell you whether or not you have a case, and what to do about it. Also, if you are owed vacation and sick pay, you could try suing in small claims court. Not sure on what the limit is these days, but if the limit exceeds what is owed you, you could possibly file twice, once for vacation pay, and again for sick pay, keeping them both separate. PGrech

Question #157: I have been looking for a work-out super job for quite some time. My previous experience is in building maintenance and a fill-in super during the summer. I am an HVAC mechanic at the moment. All of this is listed in my resume, yet I never get an answer when I respond to a job listing. Is it because I don't have any building licenses? I know that to obtain most licenses you have to actually work in a building. Post your answer

Answer: I don't think it's so much because you don't have licenses. As you alluded to, licenses and certificates go with a building. I think that somehow you must emphasize two things over all the others: the experience you have, so that the prospective employer can understand how hiring YOU would benefit THEM, and your good communication skills, because for many employers communication skills are more important than technical skills (as it should be). They want to understand that you will get along with tenants, owners, etc. and can communicate your needs to your boss, and can listen well, both to what your boss wants from you, and to what your tenants want from you -- their complaints and requests -- and be responsible to take care of problems as they come up.

Question #156: What are the OSHA regulations for building employees? Do I need to offer training (work place safety, health issues, etc) in order to be compliant with OSHA standards? Post your answer

Answer: Go to and look around. Dick Koral

Question #155: I live in a high rise apartment building, and our kitchen gas stove does not have a vent. Isn't this a violation of some NYC law or regulation? The super won't do anything about it. Post your answer

Answer: Currently there are no building codes that state that a gas stove or oven (other than for commercial use) needs to be vented. So therefore you are NOT in violation. However, the building code does state that a kitchen must have two ways for air to flow.  Example, a door and a window or two doors in and out of the kitchen or a door and a vent from the kitchen. Specifically, no mechanical vent for a gas oven is needed in a residential kitchen other than the above. PGrech

Question #154: How do I go about getting an elevator apprentice job in New York City? I graduated from a electronics technical school and also have six years as a electronics technician and 1 year as a facilities technician. Post your answer

Answer: First try the unions, I believe local 1 or Local 2; Second, try the yellow pages for elevator companies and call them. Third, check the NY times and Daily News Sunday employment sections. Forth, go online to New York Times employment and search. PGrech

Question #153: The owners of my building are constructing a new building within 5 feet of my bedroom window. What are my rights as a tenant regarding noise control during construction? For Saturday and Sunday construction I have been told they require a permit. Do they have to display this permit to the public? If they have permission to work from 9am - 6pm on a Saturday and they begin working two hours early at 7am, what are my rights? What protection from burglars around the work site is required? At the moment they can just slide past the gate and up some stairs and peer in my windows. Am I allowed one day of quiet as a resident? The construction is so jarring that I am becoming emotionally upset. What can I do? Post your answer

Answer: The New York City Building Department can answer all your questions regarding this inquiry. I believe they have jurisdiction over these matters. Good Luck and I hope you get some satisfaction. Eugene Marabello

Answer: Go to the NYC Department of Building Code Web site and click on the Table of Contents, because the code is enormous. Your answer is in there, someplace! Dick Koral

Question #152:  Is it the super's responsibility to clean the windows for the incoming tenant. Also, does the super have to clean the refrigerator and oven for the incoming tenant? Post your answer

Answer: That all depends on the agreement the super made upon being hired, known as the job description.  In many cases supers and their staff get extra compensation for cleaning vacant apartments. In my building, we clean the apartment including the appliances but not the windows. Windows are extra.

Answer: The answer is to that question is YES, except when it's NO. Why? Because only you (the super) and your manager/owner know what your agreement calls for in those situations. If there is no contract that spells out whether or not you're responsible for this type of duty, then it's probably too late now to negotiate or renegotiate the terms, and you MAY be stuck with performing whatever is "expected" of you. If you are a union member, you CAN ask your union to help you (you CAN - but you may not WANT to). Also, see this answer to a related question on our FAQs page.

Question #151:  I am interested in seeing whether a gas-powered generator can be practically, legally and safely installed to operate essential services during a blackout in a residential co-op, 9 stories, 73 apartments, 24 car garage and basement. Calculating @ 1kW / floor, X 10 floors to include a domestic water pump, gas/oil burner with auxiliary pumps, elevator, etc, plus 1kW for the garage lights and opener and heat-fans.

Could such a setup be installed in the boiler room, electric meter room, garage, or yard, or on the garage roof? Would the gas supply be likely to continue during a blackout? Could it be dual fuel, to use our #2 heating oil as a backup? I found a nominal 8KW gas-powered generator on-line of only $2000 plus $500 for a transfer switch. Since the next blackouts may possibly be prolonged and frequent, might this be money well spent? Post your answer

Answer: The answer is yes.  However, you would need to speak to the Fire Department of New York to find out if any permits or licenses are required to operate the generator. Also, the generator must be properly vented to the outside. You can't vent it through the boiler stack.  You would need to check the code, but I believe a pipe leading out of the boiler room like into the back yard maybe fine.  Installing a steam turbine that generates electricity from unused steam is usually referred to as cogeneration, this electricity is used for the building power, lowering the cost of electricity for the building. Any unused electricity generated is sold back to Con Ed. Peter Grech

Question #150: What is the minimum or maximum number of units (apartments) needed in a building in order to require by law having a superintendent onsite in New York City? What is the law? Post your answer
Answer: Go here for the answer to a question that has been asked and answered often.