live-in superintendents

Ontario leaves live-in superintendents exposed

Review of exemptions to the Employment Standards Act promised for fall
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
By Barbara Carss

Live-in superintendents in multifamily buildings continue to have little protection in Ontario law. Earlier hints that the provincial government might move quickly to guarantee entitlement to the minimum wage, overtime pay, set working hours with food breaks and public holidays proved unfounded when proposed amendments to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) were introduced, in Bill 148, in June. Instead, a review of the Act’s many exemptions and industry-specific rules has been promised for the fall of 2017.

For now, market demand and the goodwill of employers are still the prime determinants of superintendents’ working conditions. Industry insiders affirm that they have to offer compensation in line with other positions in the labour force even if there are few formal requirements to do so enshrined in law.

“Especially in light of fierce competition for site staff from the condo industry, we typically remunerate them above what is currently required according to the Employment Standards Act,” says Randy Daiter, vice president, residential properties, with M&R Holdings. “Superintendents have hours in the 40-per-week range. However, given the nature of the role, they also fulfill the very important requirement to be available for urgent situations outside regular business hours. They do receive holidays and days off when they are not expected to be at the building.”

Employees in dozens of sectors are named in Ontario Regulation 285/01, which sets out allowed exemptions to the Employment Standards Act, but live-in superintendents are the only non-student category excluded from entitlement to the minimum wage with no stipulated alternative minimum threshold. Nor is there guidance for calculating the value or wage equivalence of living accommodations — something the regulation does spell out for live-in workers, like nannies, in private households.

Findings from the Changing Workplaces Review — conducted by the Ontario government’s specially appointed advisors, who were mandated to consult widely and deliver the recommendations that now underpin much of Bill 148’s core content — reiterate that superintendents enjoy greater regulatory safeguards elsewhere in Canada.

“British Columbia and Nova Scotia are the only other provinces that have exemptions for superintendents. However, their exemptions are narrower than those in Ontario,” states the special advisors’ interim report, released in the summer of 2016. “In British Columbia, superintendents are exempt from eating periods and overtime pay. They are also subject to a special minimum wage rule under which they are entitled to a monthly base wage and a certain amount per unit supervised. In Nova Scotia, they are only exempt from overtime pay.”

Differing Workplace Circumstances

The interim report suggested the advisors would recommend a straightforward reinstatement of superintendents’ entitlements unless they heard convincing arguments for the exemptions, However, their final report, released in late May, pulls back from that position. The recommendations outline a potential a new process for ongoing review of the ESA’s sector-specific rules and exemptions to ensure they continue to be relevant and defensible.

The special advisors acknowledge that a multi-sectoral and steadily evolving economy needs flexibility to address differing workplace circumstances and varying challenges that might arise. Notably, landlords carry obligations as both employers and highly regulated housing providers.

“There would be backlash if superintendents are not able to respond to tenant service requests in a timely manner. We view the current exemptions under the employment legislation as recognition by the government of the distinct elements of the superintendent role,” Daiter observes. “Like any job, there are pluses — i.e. the housing benefits — and minuses, but, overall, I’d say the scale balances for a mutually beneficial employment arrangement.”

In another industry-related example, the construction sector is also exempt from the ESA’s requirements relating to hours in the workday and prescribed periods for eating, but it has not been an issue in a largely unionized workforce. “A collective agreement, as long as it doesn’t promise less than the ESA, supersedes. It’s always the dominant document,” explains Andrew Pariser, vice president with the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON).

The Changing Workplace Review’s special advisors caution against occasional adjustments to the Act becoming inadvertently entrenched. Those pertaining to live-in superintendents are pegged to the less-than-precise date of “at least since 1969” and are among some of the 85 current exemptions under the ESA that are deemed due for critical scrutiny.

“We received no submissions (following the interim report) from residential property employers with respect to residential building superintendents, janitors and caretakers,” the final report notes. “Rather than eliminate the exemption on the basis that no submissions were received from the employers, we recommend an early review of the regulation applying to this group of employees because of its breadth and the resulting anomalous treatment compared to others similarly situated in the rest of the country.”

Barbara Carss is editor-in-chief of Canadian Property Management.

27 thoughts on “Ontario leaves live-in superintendents exposed

  1. Building Superintendents a really bad job, it seems Ontario Residence Managers have zero laws on their side. I only get an apartment out of doing this job, no payments what so ever. Although the government looks at my rent being my earnings but how can one survive with no income? I could be terminated without a tribunal? I couldn’t even go to Work Ontario for assistance because they claim my apartment as earnings? If an apartment is considered as payment aren’t I at least entitled to vacation pay? Theses laws should be changed 20 years ago.

  2. I have been a superintendent for over 8 years and it is a endless job that can consist of 12 – 24 hours a day. It is a position that requires you to be on duty and on call at all times with very little pay. We do not have holidays off like Christmas day nor do we get overtime pay for being stuck at home working and being on call. We have to work 12 days straight before having a weekend off and not permitted to leave the property for those 12 days. We do not make even close to min wage. Superintendents can lose their job and home all in one day. Legally we can be fired and given seven days to vacate our unit. I don’t understand why we don’t follow the same pay guide lines and labor laws as any other employee. I have seen rents increase drastically in the last few years with no benefit to the superintendents or pay increase. I don’ t even get free rent. I get a small salary and they deduct half a months rent from that salary. The other half of the rent is taxed as a income. Owners can change your pay or hours of work or work load at any given time without notice and without pay increase. Please, something needs to be done for all of us overworked and underpaid.

    • I understand what you’re saying and I did call in and speak with one of the two special consultants about a review of the Ontario Labour Code. The section of the law that protects property owners from paying superintendents/caretakers anything related to a minimum wage/overtime or protections from being fired, severance pay and the like, has not been updated since 1919. Superintendents are literally employed under a 100 year-old law. Times have changed, the law hasn’t and the beneficiaries are the property owners and property managers.
      And the tenants.
      And the contractors.
      Everyone, literally benefits from the indentured servitude of residential superintendents.
      It’s a shame they didn’t take my complaint and argument to heart.
      But they have a lot of wealthy landowners in their pocket.

  3. In Ontario, a province heavily regulated, where there are strict regulation for owning a pet for example, leaving the superintendent job and life unregulated looks peculiar especially for workers known under the name of “superintendent”.
    First, the denomination “superintendent” looks to be vague with no explicit meanings. If the legislator would use the job title “building manager” and legislate accordingly, demanding for a mandatory, adequate education and certification, all the “gray” situation could be eliminated. In the real life, the building manager, the”super”, is the first in line person of taking care of the life, safety and well being of a large number of people, the residents, handling valuable machinery and property assets. Starting from this point of well defining this job, its real meanings, the legislator can clarify all the situations that affect the life of so many people known as “the super”.

    • Please look at the following web page and send all these comments to the address that appears at the end, to the Ministry of Labor.

  4. With the increase to the minimum wage, as a “super” you are making about 6$ per hour if your lucky and you have no rights under the ESA or even the LTA for that matter. I have been doing this for 5 years because I wanted a break from driving a truck however I am ready to go back soon. In my role I repair HVAC units, boilers, chillers, moderate electrical and all forms of appliances. My employer takes advantage of the fact I have been building amplifiers for 20 years so I can repair just about anything electrical. I repair most boards a service guy would replace for a fraction of the cost, my company rarely calls out a electrician now or a HVAC trade. The appliance tradesman has long since been replaced with a inventory of replacement parts now stocked here. Not once have I been offered a raise in close to three years with this employer, so it might be time to enjoy life again and have weekends off with no calls or fire alarms. When the government increased the minimum wage, in my case with a partner, we would make over 20k more a year working a minimum wage job. It is truly sickening how poorly the “super” is treated considering this is the person/people who keep the multi-residential buildings safe and deal with the fire department and police all the time. We keep the air conditioning on and the heat flowing, we make sure the garbage is always working and removed and we prepare the units for tenancy. We are the people who arrange trades and monitor security cameras, we are the people that keep the doors working and the underground ramp heaters on. We are the people that sort through the never ending recycling that is always not sorted correctly, we are the people that clear the jammed garbage chutes and compactors from the steel bed frame rails that people through down and then we are the people that come to your homes to fix the fridge at 2 AM. We are the forgotten to be honest.

  5. Am I exempt from paying my taxes? Do I not live in Canada? I live below the poverty line, without protection from our government. I have no choice but to leave this job and find something else. With minimum wage going up, any job is better than being a live-in super.

  6. Everyone of these comments are true and based on real life experiences…….we suffer the same issues and we have been doing this job for too many years (close to 20) we are close to retirement now and truly sickened by the lack of concern our gov’t has for the mass of people who are employed by this underpaid, under appreciated, over worked, over stressed position. Is it any wonder that the residents have little or no respect for the job we do! I believe a union would work wonders to straighten this situation out! There’s power in numbers.

    • I am a super and have been doing this for two years now. I go over and above every day. I get cards and letters from a lot of the owners and renters in my building. I get compliments every day, but the weekend super gets paid better than me. I don’ t know if there is a supers web page, but I’ve thought about it for some time. I think it’s a great idea to work together to try to accomplish something. Like everyone else, all I want is a fair wage for doing a damn good job.

    • I agree! It’s time we all did something to improve our lives and those who come after us. There has to be a way of getting the attention of government !!!

  7. I agree. With everything that has been said. I would like to add the abuse and harassment from tenants that feel entitled is ridiculous. I have never been treated with so little respect my whole life. We have to deal with break ins and escorting the homeless and junkies out. Fires, floods, deaths, suicides. Yet no one seems to give a damn about us. I was told be another super couple, that if we even mention the word Union in our company, they will fire us on the spot.
    How would we go about starting a Union?

  8. Working in Ontario as a superintendent is a very difficult job, need to deal with all types of people. There is no support from our government or employment standards act, and from the labour board. This has to stop, property owners love this because they have no one to answer to, and without repercussions to anyone. It’s time for change.

    • I totally agree. There has to be a way to initiate an organizational group. For too long property owners have not had to abide by any standards, in regards to rights of superintendents. There has to be a way to direct a proposal to government in regards to our rights, including wages, hours worked, time off, holidays, etc. just like any other working group.

    • Any ideas on how to start this fight for our rights? Maybe contacting another union for ideas would be a start.

  9. I am a live in super. I have been assaulted by a tenant, get abused by my boss, and make garbage. He has no government repercussions I was recently fired for mentioning that what he was doing is illegal, and now have 1 week to find a new home and job. It is the most demeaning experience of my life.

      • The Local Teamsters Union of Ontario was willing to hear out these complaints at a coffee and see if they could form a union, but when I inquired around to other buildings the supers were not willing to come because of fear of loosing their job if management found out. They wanted 20 supers to show up.

        • If there was another chance of getting a meeting going I would like to go , we need to get the word out , there has to be thousands of buildings with supers out there , maybe we should go to Ottawa and picket. I’m not computer savvy but a web page would be a good idea too .

  10. Im wondering if anybody knows the laws on being charged for apartment repairs to the unit you left after resigning from your job. I was a live in super and worked for them for 6 years, I always received good reports on my work, and full raises when it was required, I see no reason why I should be charged for the work that needs to be done, when they were going to do it anyways.

  11. The laws still need to be changed to protect these people; they get treated like garbage. It’s been 4 years I have heard they are working on it. I know someone who is almost a senior now who works 7 days a week, on duty 14 hours a day, as a live-in super. Earns barely $1000.00 a month for it, works out to about $2.00 per hour. Gets a tiny apartment, which is good, but could be fired any time for any reason with no severance or reason required and be homeless.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *