The Role and Duties of a Building Superintendent

roles of a building superintendent

The Role and Duties of a Building Superintendent

5 Critical Functions of Your Building Super that Can Prevent Wasteful Expenses, Improve Safety and Boost the Happiness of Residents at Your Building


What does a Building Superintendent do? 

The role of a Building Superintendent, or "Building Super" can be broken down into FIVE clear functions:

First Responder, Eyes and Ears, Diagnosis, Building Operations and Maintenance

Yes, this spells out F-R-E-E-D-O-M. That's because without an experienced Building Superintendent who is able to perform these basic duties, a building (manager, board of directors, etc.) is locked in a never-ending cycle of chasing deferred maintenance problems, dodging residents' complaints, and being ambushed by costly repairs

In this article, we'll look at these 5 functions of the Building Superintendent in more detail and turn them into an actionable list of daily, weekly and monthly tasks for your Building Superintendent to follow.

Spark super blog about what a building super does

One responsibility of the Building Superintendent is to help keep the building in compliance with the city's safety laws. Here, a building super installs air conditioner brackets to comply with Local Law 11.

Is my Building Super a handyman? Cleaner?  Trash handler? 

      If you live in New York City, you've probably learned to identify the Building Superintendent as the person who cleans the building, takes out the trash, fixes things and is, generally, the first one to call when something goes wrong at the building. 

      But, this traditional and simplified description understates the role and value that a great Building Superintendent can potentially bring to the building and its residents. A conscientious and trained Super ensures that the building and its systems run smoothly throughout the year, from the water pressure and temperature to the boiler's output of heat.  

      An experienced Building Superintendent can also save the building huge sums of money by efficiently troubleshooting maintenance problems and providing an accurate diagnosis for the solution.  

      Moreover, a reliable Super has often earned the trust of building residents and s/he is instrumental in calming anxieties when things go wrong. These many "hats" worn by the Super reveal that she actually plays a much bigger role than a cleaner, trash collector or handy person. 

      A trustworthy and reliable Building Superintendent serves as the property's frontline customer service, problem-solver, on-site administrator and manager, information gatherer, property agent and historian, steward, and the list goes on.

A great Building Super also serves as the building's frontline customer service, problem-solver, on-site administrator and manager, information gatherer and the building's agent, historian and steward.

Photo: Albert, Building Super, Brooklyn, NY

      The many functions that a valuable Building Superintendent performs can be summed up in an acronym: F-R-E-E-D-O-M, which stands for: First Responder, Eyes and Ears, Diagnosis, Operations and Maintenance.

      We use this acronym because a Super is critical to helping you manage your property.  Having someone with "boots-on-the-ground" and fulfilling each of these 5 functions saves you invaluable time and can help give you the peace of mind and freedom needed for you to focus on your top priorities, whether it is spending time with your family or focusing on the higher functions of your job.

        So, let’s break this down:

What Does "F-R-E-E-D-O-M" Stand For?

  1. 1
    First Responder:  When emergencies arise, such as a burst water pipe or lack of heat on the coldest wintry day, the Building Superintendent is usually the first person to call since s/he knows the building and its many working parts, and knows who to contact if help is needed. By being one of the first responders to the scene of a building emergency and being able to head off the problem quickly, the Super is instrumental to mitigating any potential damages to the property, as well as injury to persons.
  2. 2
    Knowing what's happening at the building is critical to ensuring the well-being, safety and health of the building and its residents. So, having a Building Superintendent serve as a sharp and clear pair of "Eyes and Ears" and knowing what to look for and red flag are benefits that arguably make the Super an irreplaceable, hidden asset. This function includes monitoring and supervising events at the building, such as work by outside contractors or technicians. Also, a Building Superintendent keeps an eye on everyday things like move-ins and outs, tracks security issues, makes sure that building policies are being followed, and looks out for suspicious activities.
  3. 3
    Diagnosis or "troubleshooting" of maintenance problems. This is particularly an amazing place where your Building Superintendent can prove his value many times over. An intelligent and experienced Building Super can troubleshoot maintenance problems effectively and provide targeted, budget-friendly solutions. A proper diagnosis can prevent an unnecessary visit by an outside technician and, also, the hefty expenses that often go along with it. A mistaken diagnosis by an outside technician can also lead to costly back-and-forth work and an experienced and knowledgable Building Superintendent can help prevent this. One of the biggest blessings, of course, is avoiding the stress, aggravation and frustration caused by residents who demand a fast solution to all of their maintenance problems.  An effective Building Superintendent knows how to take this off your shoulders with great communication, follow-ups and, most of all, an accurate diagnosis of the problem at hand.
  4. 4
    Building Operations.  This category includes all of the processes, systems and protocols in place to keep the building running smoothly, reliably and predictably. This may include checklists, mechanical flowcharts, scheduled reminders, posting effective signage, etc. An experienced Building Superintendent is critical for creating and implementing the right systems and protocols at the building, so that the day-to-day events can happen without surprise or any complication. At a building, the overall operation goals may be set by the Board of Directors or management, in which case the Building Superintendent is critical to ensuring that they are carried out at the building and for reporting back any challenges to carrying them out. Such tools for effective operations management include Building Cleaning Checklist (click for a FREE checklist), Mechanicals and Equipment Maintenance Checklist, Resident Move-in or Move-out Checklist, Guest Check-in Policies, After-hours Lockout Protocol, Renovation Policies and Contractor Check-in Protocol, and the list goes on. An experienced Super has a system and protocol to cover anything and everything that can happen at a building.
  5. 5
    Everyday Maintenance.  This category includes all of the regular daily, weekly and annual tasks that are in place to keep the property in the best shape possible. This critical part of everyday life is often missed or taken for granted because it happens automatically, often quietly and behind-the-scenes. However, the successful carrying out of these tasks have a direct relationship to the condition of the building, the life and operation of its mechanicals and equipments, and most importantly, the happiness of the building residents. Such protocols include:
    1. Cleaning the sidewalk and exterior grounds, and keeping those areas looking nice but also free from dangers and trip and falls;
    2. Managing the trash and recycling for removal from the premises, which keeps the building free from pests (and pestilence!); 
    3. Cleaning and disinfecting the common areas, such as the lobby, stairwell, hallways, elevator, etc. This keeps the building free of germs and odor-free
    4. Everyday (ordinary) maintenance: which includes replacing blown light bulbs, lubricating locks, as well as everyday repairs, such as replacing the flapper in a toilet and clearing bathtub drains. This category prevents accidents of both staff and residents and promotes the comfort of residents;
    5. Equipment Operations: such as making sure that the systems of the building, such as the boiler, roof tank, hot water heater, lighting and security camera systems, heating systems with radiators and air valves, etc., are operating normally. Tasks include flushing boilers and cleaning oil filters.
    6. Seasonal maintenance: this covers seasonal issues that impact the welfare and safety of the building residents, such as clearing snow, checking roof drains (to prevent water leaks) and checking over radiators to make sure their properly prepped for the heating season.
    7. Cosmetic improvement: This category includes giving the hallways a fresh coat of paint and planting or maintaining flowers.   

What types of Building Superintendents are there? 

      Depending on the size of your building, or number of apartments, these five functions may be fulfilled by one person or several. Let's take a look at how this roles becomes more complex:

1.  "Visiting" or "Traveling" Building Superintendent (commonly known as the Part-time Super)

      In smaller buildings of less than 10 apartments, a single person will usually perform all of these roles of F-R-E-E-D-O-M, and these Building Superintendents are traditionally called a Part-time Supers. 

      They're called Part-time Supers because these buildings are small enough to need just a few hours at a time to handle its cleaning, trash and recycling per week. Repairs are handled under a flexible schedule enjoyed by the Part-time Super. 

      For these smaller buildings where the Building Superintendent may spend just a few hours per week, there are not many duties placed upon the Super to handle more than the bare essentials. But, if something happens regarding the maintenance, the Part-time Super is the first person that is sought out.  

      Because these tasks arise less commonly in smaller building, Part-time Supers are hired on an as-needed basis, and additionally compensated on top of their regular weekly fee. By performing all of the five functions within a budgeted amount of time, the Part-time Super gets to earn the whole pot, but also helps the building keep within its budget. 

(Click here to find out more about the Part-time Super)

2. The traditional Live-in Super - from "Working Super" to Managing Super

      In buildings that contain between 10 and 50 units, the Building Superintendent is often hired as the only staff member and he or she fulfills the five functions but on a full-time basis. This type of Super handles a host of administrative tasks, but also takes care of the hands-on repairs, as well as the trash and recycling collection, and this person is called a "Working Super." 

      Past 50 units and up to 125 units, the building may employ an additional staff member or two to assist the Building Superintendent with the more menial tasks, such as cleaning and trash management. Or, they may add a doorman or security staff to focus on security and package handling.  

      At this level, and in cases where additional staff members enter the scene, the Building Superintendent is usually given an apartment in the building and given the formal responsibility to be "on call" for emergencies that may arise during after-hours.

      Here, the Super's role carries a heavier burden under the expectation that the five functions are carried out professionally.   

2. Resident Manager or "RM" - the executive Superintendent  


      As the building becomes larger, or where "service" is promoted as a distinguishable amenity (i.e. luxury high-rises), the number of employees that assist the Building Superintendent will grow. This introduces the need for the Building Superintendent to be more sophisticated in his or her skills for dealing with staff, contractors, board members, trade professionals, building laws, etc.  

      The Building Superintendent here will need to have mature leadership skills, critical thinking, financial planning, and on. 

      In this case, the Building Superintendent takes on a more managerial and administrative role in the building, and this Super is then called the "Resident Manager." 

      In such buildings, the Resident Manager will be supported by a staff consisting of Door-persons, Concierge, Handy-persons and Porters.

      Like the "Live-in Super," the RM is given an apartment inside the building and with that, a host of expectations.     

Do these 5 functions still hold up in all buildings from small to large, brownstones to luxury high-rises?

      You betcha. These 5 functions will hold true no matter which type your Building Superintendent is (part-time, working, or resident manager) and whether the building is large or small. 

      It's actually easier to see how these functions are broken down in larger buildings where the Building Superintendent wears the Resident Manager title. These five functions can more easily be seen and distinguished by job position:

  • The Resident Manager focuses on creating, setting and maintaining the operations that keep the building running smoothly. The RM also serves as the First Responder and person ultimately responsible for diagnosing maintenance issues properly;
  • The Doorman or Concierge serves as the “eyes and ears” for the building and the frontline for customer service
  • The Handyman performs minor repairs and regular or preventative maintenance throughout the building. Great handymen are also great troubleshooters. 
  • The Porter performs cleaning and handling of garbage and recycling. They also take on tasks that may bleed into the other roles of the building. 

      Learn more about the Superintendent and Resident Manager by clicking on these articles: 

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