Tenant Not Responsible For Sidewalk Maintenance In The Absence Of Lease Requirement Or Conduct Creating Liability

In Segovia v R.T.H. Assoc. LLC, the Supreme Court of New York, Bronx County, recently addressed the issue of whether a commercial tenant occupying a property adjacent to a public sidewalk had a duty to maintain and repair same. Plaintiff in that case alleged that she fell while walking on the sidewalk adjacent to the property near the property line with an adjacent building. The tenant moved for summary judgment, arguing that it did not have a duty to repair the sidewalk notwithstanding its lease with the property owner.

The court granted the motion and dismissed the tenant from the lawsuit, observing that “[I]t is undisputed that R.T.H. and R & G were the owners of the properties that border the sidewalk area in dispute and that Star Bright leased its property from R & G.” The court held that the Administrative Code creates an obligation for the owners but does not impose an obligation on the tenant. The court also ruled that “in the absence of a lease that is so comprehensive and exclusive as to sidewalk maintenance as to entirely displace the landowner’s duty to maintain the sidewalk” the lessee will be liable only if it “created the defective condition, negligently made repairs, or used the sidewalk for a special purpose.” Since the lease at issue did not displace the landowner’s duty to maintain the sidewalk, the tenant had no duty to maintain the sidewalk.

The Segovia decision serves as a reminder that a property owner generally has the duty to maintain an adjacent public sidewalk unless their obligation is “entirely displaced” by specific lease language or the tenant’s conduct creates liability.

Thank you to Corey Morgenstern for his contribution to this post. Please contact Andrew Gibbs with any questions.

Contributing Advisors