Landlords and tenants alike know that it’s important to keep sidewalks cleared around New York City. But what happens when there’s too much snow to handle?
According to one local landlord-‐tenant lawyer, the answer lies in the landlord-‐tenants lease agreement.
“In certain settings, a tenant may become the responsible person for maintenance of the sidewalk,” explains attorney Steven Smollens. “The lease should specify this responsibility.”
Smollens adds that it’s common for landlords to hire a property manager to do things like fix appliances and leaky pipes. In those cases, the property manager is usually responsible for clearing snow off the building’s front steps.
But sometimes, the property manager doesn’t want to spend money on snow removal. Or maybe he just doesn’t feel comfortable doing it. He’ll ask his tenants to help out.
“If you don’t want to pay for snow removal, you might say, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t afford to do it,’” says Smollens. ”’You’re responsible for it.’”
That’s where the issue arises. If the landlord wants to make sure that the sidewalk is cleared, he needs to include language specifying who’s responsible for snow removal. Otherwise, the landlord could end up being held liable for damages caused by icy sidewalks.
Snow Removal in NYC: Who Is Responsible, Landlord or Tenant?
Landlord-tenant law is pretty straightforward. But what happens when it gets complicated? In New York City, there are many things landlords don’t want you to do — including shoveling snow off of sidewalks.
The city’s building code requires landlords to maintain common areas such as walkways, fire escapes, and lobbies. This includes snow removal.
But what does this mean? Does it apply to every single apartment in a building? Or just those units where someone lives? If so, how much notice must be given? What about apartments without leases?
And what about people living in coops? Do they have to pay rent to the landlord to keep the lobby clean?
According to one local landlord-tenant lawyer, the answer depends on whether the building owner is providing the maintenance.
“If the landlord provides the maintenance, the landlord is responsible to maintain the area,” says Steven Smollens, an attorney at the firm Schwartz & Smolens LLP.
Smollens adds that if the building doesn’t provide maintenance, the tenant is responsible for keeping the area up.
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