Ask an Expert: Selling a super’s apartment

I live in a 40-unit Brooklyn co-op, and we’re trying to raise money for the building. We’re thinking of selling …

I live in a 40-unit Brooklyn co-op, and we’re trying to raise money for the building. We’re thinking of selling the super’s apartment and either relocating him to a smaller unit or outsourcing his job to someone off-site. What do we need to know? Also, he’s unionized — will that affect how we handle this? And are there any drawbacks?

The short answer? Yes, a ton of drawbacks. This plan raises so many issues — from union regulations to the cost of selling his apartment, our experts say — that it would probably easier to find another source of income for the building.

First, getting rid of your super and hiring someone off-site would probably conflict with his union contract. (Some 30,000 building staff are covered by an agreement with SEIU Local 32BJ, and it’s notoriously difficult to fire these employees.) Additionally, supers must live within a certain distance of a building of this size, so either way, you’d probably have to find someone who lives within a block of your address, experts say.

“The best alternative would probably be a smaller apartment if it is suitable to the super’s family size,” says Roberta Axelrod, a real estate broker and asset manager at Time Equities.

But union contracts generally stipulate that a super’s new apartment is at least the same size as his current one, as we’ve noted before, though presumably if he agreed to the switch, you could go ahead with it.

Also, “there are costs associated with purchasing and selling and, often, fixing up the unit for sale and/or the super’s new unit,” Axelrod says.

Since most supers’ apartments are designated in the building’s certificate of occupancy, you may have to amend the C of O, says real estate attorney Dean Roberts of Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus. “Second, in most cooperatives, shares are not allocated for the super’s apartment and that issue would also have to be dealt with,” he says, noting this would have tax consequences.

Leigh Kamping-Carder is a senior editor at BrickUnderground.com, the online survival guide to finding a NYC apartment and living happily ever after. To see more expert answers or to ask a real estate question, click here.

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