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Lease Trumps NYC Sidewalk Law

August 19, 2016

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In 2003, responsibility for the condition of the sidewalks in New York City was shifted by statute from the City to the adjoining landowner.  But in a recent decision from the Second Department Appellate Division, the Court found that a comprehensive lease agreement could protect a landowner from the obligations to maintain and repair the adjacent sidewalk pursuant to the NYC Administrative Code.
In <a href="http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2016/2016_05747.htm"><em>Paperman v. 2281 86th St. Corp.</em></a> the plaintiff slipped and fell on a sidewalk adjacent to the building owned by 2281 86th Street Corp. and leased to EZ Corner, Inc. After the tenant settled directly with the plaintiff, the plaintiff and the owner proceeded to trial.
At trial, the jury found the owner was not liable and instead it was the tenant’s negligence that was the cause of the accident. A judgment was entered dismissing the plaintiff’s case against the owner.
On appeal, the Appellate Division found that although the Administrative Code of the City of New York imposes a duty on a property owner to maintain and repair the sidewalk abutting its property, if there is a lease agreement "so comprehensive and exclusive as to sidewalk maintenance” it may entirely displace the landowner's duty to maintain the sidewalk.
In this case, the lease between the owner and tenant required the tenant to, at its own cost and expense, keep and maintain the sidewalk "in thorough repair and good order." The Court’s opinion was this language was “so comprehensive and exclusive” that it entirely displaced the owner's duty to maintain the sidewalk.
Thanks to George Parpas for his contribution to this post and please write to <a href="mailto: mbono@wcmlaw.com">Mike Bono </a>for more information.

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