Latest Landlord Scam: Elusive Superintendents

Latest Landlord Scam: Elusive Superintendents

 

Published: 
September 2017

A recent landlord scam is to avoid having a superintendent in buildings. This denies tenants essential maintenance and repair services, while enabling the owner to rent out one more apartment instead of setting it aside for the super.

New York State law mandates that a superintendent either live in the building or within 200 feet of it, and that there be at least one superintendent for every 60 apartments. But in my building and many others, there isn’t one.

There is a name with an address within the 200-foot limit listed on the form posted in the front hallway, as required by the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development. However, tenants and building staff, such as janitors and handymen, have never seen nor heard from these superintendents.

In my building, the daytime super lives in Paterson, New Jersey. The nighttime and weekend super lives on the next block, in a building owned by a different company— but tenants are instructed not to contact him. Rather, they are told to call the management company’s office and ask them to have someone do the needed repair, or tend to whatever the complaint was.

What are tenants supposed to do if an emergency occurs? They are instructed to call a telephone number posted in the hallway by management. Those calls are answered by someone at a call center, who writes down the tenant’s name and address and the type of emergency. So far, tenants have reported no luck with this procedure.

Recently, just before 6 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, I experienced a plumbing problem. I called the listed superintendent. “I’m in Astoria, because it is Sunday,” he answered, sounding annoyed. “I will call someone.” My apartment is in the East Village.

I telephoned the call-center number, and a woman answered who seemed to know very little about building maintenance. She offered to call someone. No one came to resolve my problem. At 10 p.m., the superintendent called. “Just got back in to the city,” he said. Luckily, I had been able to repair the problem myself. If it had been a massive flood, my neighbors and I would have had a very big problem.

My building, 325 East 12th St., is one of 15 in the East Village involved in a bankruptcy-court case stemming from a predatoryequity scheme by Raphael Toledano. Federal Bankruptcy Judge Robert D. Drain ordered the current management company, Silverstone Property Group, to have superintendents in each building by June 18. As yet, this has not been done.

Tenants deserve a legal, skillful superintendent. Having an apartment in the building where they work has long been part of a super’s benefit package. In our buildings, the staff is not unionized, and the average pay is $16 an hour. The supers who live elsewhere are paid $19 to $20 an hour.

Not having this essential service is part of a continued pattern of harassment. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating this latest Silverstone Property Group trick.