Delinquent Tenant Receives Comeuppance from Court of Appeals (NY)
In the case Multani v. Knight, plaintiff Multani, who operated a medical clinic in a space she leased from defendant Evelyn Knight, brought claims against Knight for conversion, breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, nuisance, negligent maintenance of property and other related claims. The claims arose due to a sewer backup that caused damage to the tenant’s clinic. (We suspect the “negligence” cause of action may have triggered insurance coverage, but the Court does not focus on the insurance coverage aspects of the case.)
The primary question for the appeals court was: Can a landlord be held liable to a commercial tenant for damage to tenant’s property resulting from an alleged sewer backup when the tenant (who had a month-to-month tenancy in the premises after her lease expired) had stopped paying rent, had been served (but failed to comply) with a three-day notice to pay rent or quit, and had been named in an unlawful detainer action filed before the alleged sewer backup occurred.
The Court of Appeals held that the tenant (as described in the above paragraph) was a tenant at sufferance who had no lawful right to possession of the premises. The court held that the landlord was not liable for damage to the tenant’s property left on the premises when that damage was not caused by the landlord’s intentional act or negligence. The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. Thanks to Jonathan Avolio for his contribution to this post. Please email Brian Gibbons with any questions.