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Should Our Building Let the Super Buy An Apartment?

Q. I live in a co-op on the Upper East Side.  Our super is a regular Donald Trump, only shorter and with better hair. He lives right next door to me in a two bedroom apartment bigger than mine, that would cost him upwards of a million dollars if he had to pay for it, which he doesn’t.  It’s common knowledge that he owns a bunch of apartments in a condo in Riverdale that he rents out.  Whenever I ask him to do something, he’s on his cell dealing with the latest complaints from his tenants.  Anyway, it doesn’t seem right that he should have more apartments and money than me, especially with the increase he just got as part of the Union contract.  Now I hear he wants to buy an apartment in our building for his mother.  That doesn’t seem kosher to me. What do you think? East Side Elitist

A. You can’t blame the super for being smart, which it sounds like he is. Most co-ops and condos provide free housing to their Resident Managers, as they prefer to be called, as part of their compensation package.  It’s a good deal, no doubt about it.  I wish I could live in New York without having to pay for an apartment, which even in this market costs more than practically anywhere else in the universe, except London.  I’d have a lot more money in the bank.

That’s the thing.  Your super, excuse me Resident Manager, doesn’t have to pay – probably not even for utilities — so all that money is freed up for real estate speculating.  And most RMs are handy so they can turn residential dross into gold.  The RM in my building buys and sells houses in the Hamptons that I probably couldn’t even afford to rent for the summer. Whoever said life was fair.

The real issue is whether his activities as a real estate mogul impede his performance as your building’s RM, as you seem to suggest.  This was a bone of contention in my building, especially during summers, when our RM was out the door by 10 A.M. Friday to tend to his properties, leaving residents to fix their own toilets. Finally, enough people complained and the board stepped in.  You should document in writing to the board and your managing agent any instances of inattention by your RM. Hopefully, they’ll see to it that he gets his priorities straight, which odds are he will, knowing firsthand how expensive it is to buy a piece of prime real estate.

As for the RM’s plans to buy an apartment in the building, that’s a closer call. I spoke to a number of brokers, who told of Super-buyers, they believe were rejected just because they were Supers.   That smacks of the worst kind of elitism, and should not be condoned. While it’s laudable that your RM wants to help out mom, there are potential conflicts if he is both a shareholder and RM in the same building.  Will he fix things faster in his own apartment. Should he be able as a shareholder to vote on issues than affect his job? How will the board handle the tricky task of dealing with him in his dual status of super/shareholder? Why not tell the RM to have his mom move in with him.  That way he can have good home cooking and avoid even the the appearance of impropriety.

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