Question: I moved into a doorman building this year and have no idea how much to tip the doormen or the rest of the staff. What’s the going rate?

Living the High Life on the Upper East Side

Dear Living:

Congratulations on your new place. “Well we’re movin on up, To the east side / To a deluxe apartment in the sky.” (Sorry, I date myself.)

As you know, there is no hard-and-fast rule on tipping the building staff. There are some rules of thumb, however, that agree in general but differ in some details.

That said, I’m going to take a stab at making a general rule. In a fully staffed building, aim for a building-wide tip budget of 20 perfect of one month’s rent, or its equivalent. So, if your rent runs $3,500 a month, your tip budget should be $750. If your co-op apartment would rent for $5,000 and month, then you should have $1,000 budget.

The next part of that question is how to allocate the budget. A fully staffed high-rise building might have anywhere from 10 to 18 people. So let’s say your building has a staff of 12 people, and you’re paying $4,000 a month.

Before you start handing out the cash, you should also have an idea of about how much each staff member is paid. Most building staff members in New York are represented by the Service Employees International Union, which every four years negotiates a new employment contract. Minimum wages are noted in the union contract. Remember, these are minimums; more senior staffers make much more. Superintendents are represented by the union, but their pay varies greatly. Currently advertised help-wanted positions range from $40,000 a year to over $115,000.

Tips should be allocated similarly, more for those higher up the ladder and those who have been working at the building longer. Don’t be stingy. And don’t stiff anyone.  Generosity is its own reward.

So here’s how I’d break down your $800 budget (percentages are if every one of your neighbors tipped at the same rate):

Annual Pay Tip Building
Super*   $75,000   $100   20%
Concierge (Sr.)   $49,4 00   $80   24%
Concierge   $49,400   $75   23%
FT Doorman (Sr.)   $49,400   $80   24%
FT Doorman (Sr.)   $49,400   $70   21%
FT Doorman   $49,400   $65   20%
FT Doorman   $49,400   $65   20%
PT Doorman   $25,000   $35   21%
PT Doorman   $25,000   $35   21%
FT Porter/handyman (Sr.)   $54,444   $80   22%
FT Porter/handyman   $54,444   $75   21%
PT Porter/handyman   $27,000   $40   22%
Total Tips   $800
*Estimated annual wage


David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.

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