Are Lease Provisions That They Are Not Responsible For Injuries Valid
Our New York lawyers that represent tenants injured because of dangerous conditions in an apartment building know that lease agreements that try to disclaim a landlord's responsibility to avoid maintaining their property or shifting responsibility to the tenant are void as against public policy and in violation of General Obligations Law 5-321 and Real Property Law 235-b(1). While unscupulous landlords try any means to avoid responsibility for injuries to tenants, out New York City personal injury lawyers know that New York law protects the tenants. One of the latest tactics, that is a throwback to the turn of the century, is sticking into residential leases that the tenant is responsible for the maintenance of the property or that the tenant agrees to hold harmless and indemnify the landlord. Our NYC tenant injury lawyers know that any such agreement is void as against public policy and in violation of General Obligations Law § 5-321 and Real Property Law § 235-b(1).
New York has enacted several laws that protect tenants against unscrupulous practices of landlords. New York's General Obligations Law § 5-321, states that every covenant, agreement or understanding in or in connection with or collateral to any lease of real property exempting the lessor from liability for damages for injuries to person or property caused by or resulting from the negligence of the lessor, his agents, servants or employees, in the operation or maintenance of the demised premises or the real property containing the demised premises shall be deemed to be void as against public policy and wholly unenforceable. New York Courts have recognized that the General Obiligations Law § 5-321 was enacted in "response to the widespread use in New York City of contracts resulting in unequal bargaining power between lessor and lessee and statutorily prohibits a lessor from exempting itself of liability to a lessee for damages sustained as a result of the lessor's own negligence. Hogeland v. Sibley, Lindsay & Curr Co., 42 NY2d 153, 160,397 N.Y.S.2d 602 (1977); Meyer v. City of New York, 22 Misc. 3d 1119(A(N.Y. Sup 2009). Jurisprudence has interpreted GOL § 5-321, as barring any indemnification agreement between a lessor and lessee of real property where the lessor seeks to be held harmless for his own negligence. Rodriguez v Beulah Commons Assoc., L.P., 46 Misc. 3d 1203(A) (Bx. Sup 2004). Under GOL § 5-321 a lease clause may not be used by a landlord to seek indemnification for its own negligence and a provision in a lease seeking to exempt a party for his own negligence is void and unenforceable as against public policy. Tormey v. City of New York, 302 A.D.2d 277 (1 Dep’t 2003); Titumir v. Barker Ave. Ests. LLC, 2022 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 446, *8 (Bx Sup 2022).
Likewise, Real Property Law § 235-b(1) states in pertinent part that in every written or oral lease or rental agreement for residential premises the landlord or lessor shall be deemed to covenant and warrant that the premises so leased or rented are fit for human habitation and for the uses reasonably intended by the parties and that the occupants of such premises shall not be subjected to any conditions which would be dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to their life, health or safety. Real Property Law § 235-b(2) specifically states that any agreement by a lessee or tenant of a dwelling waiving or modifying his rights as set forth in this section shall be void as contrary to public policy. It is hornbook law that parties may not contract contrary to public policy. Semans Family Ltd. Pshp. v. Kennedy, 177 Misc. 2d 345, 349 (N.Y. Civ. Ct 1998); Matter of Brown v Supreme Ct. of Ind. Order of Foresters, 176 NY 132, 137 (1903).The Courts have recognized that Real Property Law § 235-b(2) voids, all attempts by a landlord to circumvent their responsibility to provide a safe and habitable dwelling. Fraley Realty Corp. v. Stocker, 115 Misc. 2d 52, 53 (App Term 1, 1982). Jurisprudence has long recognized that exculpatory clauses in a tenants' leases are "void as contrary to public policy". Goldner v. Doknovitch, 88 Misc. 2d 88, 90 (1 Dep’t 1976). A clause requiring tenant to paint and renovate apartment is void as an attempt to circumvent warranties of habitability. Fraley Realty Corp., 115 Misc. 2d at 52, 53. A clause requiring the tenant to share the cost of an extermination created no enforceable contractual rights, because the agreement served to dilute the landlord's statutory obligation to remedy a rent-impairing condition of which it had notice, and thus was "void as an attempt to circumvent the warranty of habitability. Bldg Mgt. Co., Inc. v Halabi, 44 Misc. 3d 134(A) (App Term 1 2014). Simply stated, a residential landlord, has the statutory obligation to maintain the premises, and they cannot shift the obligation to provide a reasonably safe premises to the tenant and any such agreement is void. ".Goldner v. Doknovitch, 88 Misc. 2d 88, 90 (1 Dep’t 1976) [Exculpatory clauses in leases are void]; see also Giglio v St. Joseph Intercommunity Hosp., 309 AD2d 1266, 1268, 765 NYS2d 77 , as amended on reconsideration 2 AD3d 1485 .
Statistics show that slips and falls are the most common form of injury in rental properties. Furthermore, many of these injuries occur due to hazardous conditions such as slippery floors, broken stairs, uneven surfaces or inadequate lighting. These hazards can lead to significant medical expenses and lost wages due to time away from work.To protect tenants from these hazards, landlords are responsible for making sure their rental properties are safe and up to code. This means performing regular repairs and maintenance as necessary, installing safety devices such as handrails and nonslip surfaces, properly labeling hazardous areas, and providing adequate lighting in all areas of the property. By following these steps, landlords can significantly reduce the risk of tenant injury.
If a landlord fails to make necessary repairs or take proactive measures to ensure tenant safety, they may be held liable if an injury occurs. Tenants who have been injured due to negligent maintenance or other hazards should seek legal advice to ensure that they receive adequate compensationIf you were injured because a New York City landlord did not maintain their property, don't let a clause in a lease stop you from pursuing your legal rights. Our NYC personal injury lawyers have decades of experience in suing landlords who ignore their responsibilities to make a property safe for their tenants and allow them to get hurt.