Real State

How to Deal With a Difficult Doorman

Q: My co-op building has a new doorman who does not perform his duties. He never opens the door. He leaves packages unattended and overnight in the lobby. He’s loud and indiscreet, converses on the phone, is often away from the desk and can be hostile and defiant to shareholders and guests. What recourse do shareholders have? Can we withhold the portion of maintenance that goes toward his salary if his performance does not improve?

A: You cannot withhold maintenance because a building employee is not performing duties to your expectations.

Your grievances may be merited, but if all the shareholders in a co-op withheld maintenance because they were dissatisfied with aspects of the service, the building wouldn’t be able to function properly.

What bothers one person may not bother another. “One of my doormen is on the phone all the time. It makes me nuts, and I’m on the board,” said Steven D. Sladkus, a real estate lawyer and founding partner of the Manhattan law firm Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas, of his apartment building. “I don’t do anything because he’s one of the best doormen. He’s getting the job done.”

In your case, it sounds like the job isn’t getting done, or at least not to your standards. To make a change, you’ll need to contact management — either the board or the managing agent, depending on who oversees staffing issues. Before you do that, talk to your neighbors. Find out if others share some of your frustrations, particularly about the behavior that you find defiant and disrespectful. If you can gather other people behind you, your complaint will carry more weight. “If more and more people feel that way, that’s more incentive for the board to do something about that,” Mr. Sladkus said.

Next, write a letter to management laying out your concerns. Be specific. Cite examples where the behavior has been problematic. The employee may need further training or supervision to better do the job. Ultimately, any changes will have to come from the employee’s supervisor.

If you find that you are alone in your assessment of the situation, you may want to find another way to smooth your relationship with the doorman without reporting him to his boss, and potentially compromising his employment.

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