MKCI is proud to announce that its Syracuse attorneys recently obtained summary judgment on behalf of a residential property manager, in a lawsuit alleging personal injuries. The plaintiff in that suit fell while stepping off of a porch, when one of the steps suddenly dislodged. The plaintiff claimed that his co-tenant had verbally complained to the property manager, on multiple occasions, about the conditions of the steps, but conceded that nobody had ever provided written notice of that complaint. The lease between the parties required such written notice. Plaintiff was permitted under the terms of the lease to make his own repairs to the steps, and in fact made those repairs.
The court’s decision, dismissing the property manager from the suit, cited the Court of Appeals’ recent decision in Henry v. Hamilton Equities, Inc., 34 N.Y.3d 136 (2019), where the court held that the property owner was an out-of-possession landlord despite the presence of contractual language requiring it to maintain the premises. The crux of the case was that the tenant made repairs to the defective roof and the owner did not, and therefore the landlord relinquished control.
Our team also argued that the lease contained an enforceable written notice provision, which required all maintenance and repair requests to be made in writing. Plaintiff argued in opposition that defendant waived the requirement by its property manager’s testimony, that he would have repaired a condition even if a request were not made in writing. However, the lease contained a no-waiver clause, enforceable under Jefpaul Garage Corp. v. Presbyterian Hosp. in N.Y., 61 N.Y.2d 442, 446 (1984) (enforcing a “clear and unambiguous” no-waiver clause, holding that “the parties having mutually assented to its terms, the clause should be enforced.”) The trial court agreed, and found the written notice clause of the lease valid and enforceable. The court further found that there was no proper notice pursuant to that clause, and dismissed the suit as to MKCI’s client.
The decision is an important one that highlights the strength of landlord-friendly (or property manager-friendly) lease agreements. Property managers should review their lease contracts, to ensure the presence of a written notice provision and no-waiver clause, to protect themselves against claims of verbal notice in the litigation context.
For more information on this case, or on premises liability in New York State, contact MKCI’s Finney Raju at firstname.lastname@example.org.