How to Work With a Landlord or Apartment Superintendent

Man fixing sink in an apartment

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If you’re renting an apartment, you probably rely on a building superintendent or manager to maintain the space that you now call home. In order to feel good about where you live, your relationship with this person should be developed, nurtured, and handled with care.

After all, you want to come home to a happy place and not one that is in a state of disrepair, simply because the person doesn’t like you. Having a healthy landlord-tenant relationship will make life so much more pleasant. Being polite and showing respect will create the goodwill that makes the person want to help when you need it.

Although it's okay to be firm, stating your case with a dose of kindness always makes the relationship much easier to deal with. Even if the building manager is gruff, you should still maintain a cool, calm demeanor.

Build a Professional but Friendly Foundation

Chances are, you signed a lease that spells out the responsibilities of the renter and the landlord. Read this carefully to make sure you can live up to the terms. If you aren’t sure about any aspect of the contract, ask questions. You might even want to speak to an attorney if something still isn’t clear, or it makes you uncomfortable.

Be Positive and Expect the Best

Have a positive attitude when you speak to the superintendent or landlord during your first meeting. Introduce yourself, smile, and shake hands if possible. Even if you get a surly response, you can be confident that you went in with good manners. Remember that some people don’t have great social skills, but they are good at their jobs.

Negative Relationship With the Superintendent

If you get a bad feeling about the person or place, you may want to reconsider renting there and look for something else. However, if that feeling doesn’t happen until after you’ve signed the lease, it might be too late to do anything about it, so you want to make the most of the situation.

Be Careful What You Say

No matter how the superintendent acts toward you, maintain a professional demeanor and resist the urge to say something you may later regret. Don’t forget that this person is in charge of making things run smoothly in the building or apartment complex, and you don’t want to be on the list of problem tenants.

How to Stay on the Good Side of Your Landlord

Once you understand the contract, follow the rules and uphold everything you’ve agreed to. Tenants who don’t follow the rules won’t get support from the landlord or superintendent, no matter how wonderful their personalities are.

Respect the Landlord or Superintendent

Always show respect for the superintendent. Remember there are other tenants in the building or complex, and they probably have issues that need to be fixed or resolved too. If you put in a work order for something, unless it’s an emergency, don’t expect to jump to the top of the list. However, if it is an emergency, such as a burst pipe or an electrical issue, be clear about it.

An interior door that doesn’t close all the way or a kitchen drawer that is difficult to open and close isn’t an emergency and shouldn’t be treated as such. If you turn every little thing into an emergency, the superintendent will assume you’re the type of person to overreact to everything.

Be Friendly

When you see the superintendent in the hallway, smile and offer a friendly greeting. Even if they have a sour expression, you can still be nice. Even if this person doesn't respond, your kindness will be noted.

You never know what's going on in someone else's life, so don't assume there's a problem. They might be having a terrible day with one emergency after another, and your friendliness might be the ray of sunshine they need—even if they don't show it.

Renter's Guidelines

Quick tips for a professional relationship with the landlord or building superintendent:

  • Pay your rent on time.
  • Be friendly at all times. Say hi and smile when you see your landlord.
  • Be a good neighbor to those who live in your building.
  • Ask for assistance before the problem gets out of hand or becomes an emergency.
  • Keep a paper (or email) trail. This is not only for your protection but it helps to remind you of the specifics of the times you've contacted the superintendent.
  • Understand your rights. If you know your rights upfront, you can nip some issues in the bud before they get out of control.
  • Be honest in all aspects of renting your apartment. For example, don’t try to hide a pet, or you may find yourself getting booted out of the apartment.
  • If you make a mistake or assume something that isn’t correct, offer a sincere apology and ask for an explanation.

Never forget that the superintendent has a demanding job. Find opportunities to thank them, and if you are able to, give them something during the holidays. Maybe you can get all of the tenants to chip in on a gift card or envelope of cash. Most of the superintendents will appreciate the gesture, but don’t expect special treatment afterward.

Late Night Emergency

When something happens after hours—in other words, after the apartment management has gone home for the night—you need to determine whether it’s a true emergency or something that can be dealt with the next business day. If it’s an emergency, follow the protocol for reporting it.

Some of the things that are emergencies:

  • A plumbing leak that can damage floors, ceilings, or walls
  • Gas leak—most of the time detected by odor
  • Electricity sparking or causing appliances to run hot
  • Heat or air conditioner going out when the temperature is dangerously cold or hot
  • A wild animal in your apartment

Things that are not emergencies:

  • Noisy neighbor
  • An appliance that doesn’t work
  • A stuck door or cabinet
  • A dripping faucet or running toilet

If you have a fire or break-in, don’t call your landlord or superintendent. Call 911 emergency services instead.

When Superintendents Don’t Fulfill Their Duties

As a renter, you have certain rights, such as safety, privacy, working appliances, a pest-free space, and anything else that is spelled out in the lease. Your superintendent or landlord has the responsibility to make sure all of these responsibilities are met.

If your superintendent doesn’t fulfill his duties, there are some things you should do:

  • Put everything in writing. Include all incidents, dates, and times you attempted to get something fixed.
  • Send a registered letter with a list of what you need to have done to make your apartment safe, secure, and repaired. Send a copy to the superintendent and the owner of the building.
  • If the letter doesn’t bring results, contact the proper authorities. This could be the health department or building inspectors.
  • Contact an attorney for assistance in resolving the issue or breaking the lease.

It's important to remember:

  • What you don’t want to do is stop paying your rent, or you may be in breach of contract. If you do everything you’ve agreed to do, the landlord or superintendent may not have an argument, and you’re more likely to win.
  • Never threaten apartment management, or you might find yourself in a legal mess.
  • Don’t try to get back at the superintendent by sabotaging the apartment. This can also get you into a heap of trouble.

Working Through the Issues

It’s obviously better to work through issues with your landlord or superintendent without involving others. Sometimes all it takes is a matter-of-fact conversation and a list of the problems in writing. However, not all people who manage rental properties are agreeable, and if that’s the case, you’ll need to take responsible legal action if necessary.