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Landlord Not Liable For Repairs Unless The Lease Requires (NJ)

June 9, 2023

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In <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/McCauley-vs.-American-Property-Management-Group-LLC.pdf">McCauley vs. American Property Management Group, LLC</a></em>, Plaintiff brought forth an appeal from a March 18, 2022 order granting Defendant Summary Judgment. William Marley is defendant’s principal and sole owner. Marley is employed by American Millwright and Rigging (AMR), a business that builds, repairs, and moves heavy machinery and equipment. Plaintiff worked at AMR as a mechanic and Marley was his boss. Marley claimed that AMR paid rent to defendant American Property Management Group, LLC, for the use of the property, paid the utilities, and was responsible for maintenance and repairs to the property.

Plaintiff was working for AMR on defendant’s property. He and another employee were instructed by Marley to use a forklift to lift an extruder and place it on a flatbed truck. During the course of carrying out these instructions, an extruder fell over and struck Plaintiff’s leg. The area on which the forklift was operated was made of compacted gravel. AMR employees use that specific area on the property for loading activities because it is flat and free of potholes.

Defendant American Property Management Group moved for Summary Judgment, claiming there as no factual dispute that AMR rented the property from defendant and performed all maintenance and repairs on the property. Defendant alleged that it did not owe Plaintiff a duty and was not liable for any injuries Plaintiff may have sustained while working on the property. The trial judge granted Summary Judgment in favor of Defendant, finding there was unrefuted testimony that AMR was responsible for the maintenance and repairs to the property. Additionally, the judge determined that the composition of the property was not a dangerous condition and that Plaintiff had not established Defendant was aware of any dangerous condition.

Plaintiff appealed, asserting that the trial court erred in granting Defendant Summary Judgment because there were disputed material facts regarding the existence of a lease, the instructions to Plaintiff regarding the forklift, and whether there was a defective condition on the property. Relying on <u>McBride v. Port Auth. of N.Y. &amp; N.J.</u>, the Appellate Court held that the burden to make repairs falls upon the tenant in the absence of an agreement stating otherwise. In other words, in the absence of an agreement to make repairs, the landlord is under no obligation to do so. As such, the Appellate court held the facts that Plaintiff alleged were disputed were found to be immaterial and affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Thanks to Steve Kim for his contribution to this article.  Should you have any questions, contact <a href="mcare@wcmlaw.com">Matthew Care</a>.

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