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Porters, Handymen, and Doorman, or PHD's Blog
  Frequently Asked Questions  


On this page we'll try to answer some often-asked questions about the building maintenance field. Please read the questions on this page to see if your question has already been asked before you post your question.




















  What is the job description and duties for a superintendent, porter, handyman?

Answer: There really is no written job description that would cover all supers, porters and handymen in all types of buildings - not from the union and not from anywhere else. The job description for a particular job will cover that job in that particular building 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, whether or not it's a union job, 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.

Your first step should be to ask Management for THEIR job descriptions for those positions in your building.

The Union's website is at:

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  What is the rule on superintendents having to reside at the place that they work?

Answer: The Housing Maintenance Code, Article 13, states "a building of 9 apartments or more" and the second is the Multiple Dwelling Law Article 3/title 83, which states "a dwelling with thirteen or more tenants." Both articles state either/or... a 24 hour janitor or housekeeper or a janitor residing in the building or a janitor residing within 200 feet of the building, or the agent or owner lives in the building. Also, the basement is an acceptable place for the owner/management to house the super.

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  The building I just moved into has a super, a handyman, 5 or 6 doormen, and 5 or 6 porters. Who do I tip and how much?

Answer: It's a fair question, but the answer is very subjective and lies within you. The best supers, doormen & handymen / porters (read: those who really care about their work and reputation, and not just about the money) will appreciate WHATEVER you give them, whenever it's given, in the spirit that it's given.

I think a good holiday tip, in a luxury building, for the year, is $200 and up for full time personnel, higher for the super who is responsible for all.

But this is all very subjective -- numbers are just that, numbers -- and of course should depend on your own preferences, income, debts, how much you request (or demand!) their individual help at Holiday time and throughout the year, etc. And there's nothing wrong with playing favorites -- meaning tipping more to those who've helped you specifically, and have done so with a great attitude and heart and respect and caring, throughout your stay. Also, ask the other occupants of the building. There are no rules other than your conscience.

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  What is the salary range for a live-in superintendent? Should the lunch hour be paid as a working hour?

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, including description of duties and responsibilities, number of other 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.

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  Does the super have any less responsibility to me, in a rent stabilized apartment, than those in apartments paying market rents?

Answer: If you complain loud enough and long enough, and accompany that with a liberal tip now and then, you will get done what you need to have done in your apartment ("squeaky wheel gets the grease..."). That being said, a super has NO LESS responsibility to you, as a rent stabilized tenant, than to any other tenant in the building, including the market rate renters. EVEN IF YOU NEVER TIP. 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, simply because you're rent-stabilized.  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.

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  What are the licensing requirements of building management in New York City?

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

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  I'm moving 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.

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 any 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 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 - treating others as you would like them to treat you carries as much weight here as anywhere.

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  How can I go about finding a super's job? And are there any companies that hire for that particular job.

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.

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  Where do I learn who in New York City needs a Certificate of Fitness?

Answer: Certificates of Fitness are issued by the New York City Fire Department for various tasks, like attending a burner that uses heavy oil. Go to the City's Web site and follow instructions to get to the Fire Department, then look it up.

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  I'm trying to enter the building maintenance industry; I would like to know how I would go about getting certified for boilers?

Answer: Licenses that supers should have: #6 heavy oil burners, sprinkler, standpipe. Those three are the most common and STA now has classes for all three licenses. New York City Administrative Code states that all supers must be certified competent. STA will be giving classes that will be HPD approved for competency soon. Go to our webpage on classes and workshops.

To the best of my knowledge the only certification for boilers in NYC would be for high pressure steam. In most buildings that certification is not required.

First you have to get a job (or at least a job offer) in a building. Only the building superintendent needs a boiler Certificate of Fitness for #6 boiler. Sometime the handyman is asked to get one but you need a letter from the building management to take the test.

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  Can I get the study guide for the Boilers, Standpipe and Sprinkler test on-line?

Answer: Here's the link for all the Fire Department's fitness certificates.

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  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.

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" in the search engine.

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  How can I get the licenses required for a super position?

Answer: Licenses that supers should have: #6 heavy oil burners, sprinkler, standpipe. Those three are the most common and STA now has classes for all three licenses. New York City Administrative Code states that all supers must be certified competent. STA will be giving classes that will be HPD approved for competency soon. Go to our webpage on classes and workshops.

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  What is the minimum temperature for heat and hot water that a landlord must provide in New York City?

Answer: New York City Heat/Hot Water Requirements.

Trying to get any info to obtain a boilers / black seal and air pollution control license for NY and NJ. Any contact information would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: Read answers to similar questions here.

I would like to become a building super, but to get a job in a building there are typically certain licenses required (standpipe, #6 boiler, fire safety director, etc). However, to get those licenses you need a letter from an employer. This must be a common problem. Any suggestions from others as to how I could become licensed in those necessary areas? I've read over the FAQ but can't find the answer to this question.

Answer: It seems you are confused about the need for these certificates of fitness. First of all supers do not need those certificates unless the building they operate has those systems. E.g. A super doesn't need a "number 6," AKA P-99 unless his building has a boiler that uses number 6 oil. If the boiler is gas, #2 or #4 oil or city steam no certificate is required. Same for Sprinklers and Standpipe. So, the need for the letter is to verify to the Fire Department that the systems are in the building and that the super is of good character and competent. The certificate meanwhile in the name of the super is given to the specific address. Thus when a super leaves a building for another, a new certificate is required. There is currently no requirement for a super to hold a Fire Safety Directors (FSD) Certificate in a residential building. FSDs are for commercial buildings. You may take the test for those certificates using a letter from a school where you took classes for those subjects. The FDNY will allow you to take the exam, and then give you one year to get a letter from an employer. Again, if the building doesn't have those systems, then a super isn't required to have the certificate(s).

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