Adjacent Landowner Liability for City Sidewalk Defects, by Arthur XanthosPermalink
By definition, condominium boards are not landowners. So if a passerby slips and falls on a sidewalk adjacent to a condominium building, who is the adjacent landowner for purposes of liability?
This Firm has seen plaintiff counsel sue the condominium itself, which we believe eventually results in a dismissal because the condominium is not a landowner and the NYC Administrative Code provision is interpreted strictly. So that leaves one other possibility on whom to impose liability for a sidewalk defect -- the owner of the particular condominium unit closest to the site of the trip and fall (occupied most likely by a ground floor commercial tenant of the unit owner).
In light of uncertain litigation with these quirky facts, ground floor condominium unit owners who rent out their unit should obligate the tenant to maintain and repair the sidewalk adjacent to the unit, and to defend and indemnify the unit owner (and the condominium board of managers) in the event of a lawsuit. We note that while many form leases obligate tenant to keep the adjacent sidewalk clean, they leave unclear the responsibility for sidewalk maintenance and repair.
Of course, the condominium unit owner should also insist on proof that the tenant has adequate liability insurance and has named the unit owner (and, of course, the board of managers) as additional insureds on the insurance policy.