The sidewalks around your building may belong to New York City. But the responsibility for maintenance and sidewalk liability belong to you. In fact, underwriters report that sidewalk-related injuries are the leading liability claim against New York City landlords.
We’ve written before about snow removal, slips/trips/falls and other sidewalk violations. A recent white paper on sidewalk maintenance highlights the hefty penalties and significant responsibilities that come with being a landlord, property manager or owner.
Is Your Building Included in Sidewalk Liability Law?
According to the New York Administrative Code, property owners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalks outside or adjacent to their building in most cases. The law does not apply to one-, two- or three-bedroom residential properties that are owner-occupied and used only for residential purposes.
Except in those circumstances, property owners are liable for both property damage and personal injury. Even a sidewalk block that’s half an inch lower or higher than the surrounding blocks can cost a property owner if someone trips on it.
Defective Sidewalk Conditions Imposing Liability
If maintaining the sidewalk in a reasonable safe condition is the property owner’s responsibility, what does the New York Code consider unsafe? Here are some examples:
- Settlement in the sidewalk that causes water to pool and creates slippery conditions
- Excessive cross-slopes due to tree roots
- Chipped and spalled surfaces
- Off-grade surfaces (such as different heights between the sidewalk and curb and gutter)
All of the regulations are listed here.
Property Owners and DOT: Who Does What for Sidewalks
If a sidewalk has to be repaired, either proactively by the property owner or because of a notice of violation, sometimes the Department of Transportation (DOT) will do the work.
Some properties are eligible for DOT’s expedited sidewalk repair program. In those cases, DOT will do the work and then bill the property owner. There are restrictions and other factors, such as performing repair work in a historic district, which requires a separate permit from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. That information is listed here.
Protection from Sidewalk Liability
The white paper recommends these five steps to mitigate potential sidewalk liability and other expenses:
- Be aware of the laws and property owners’ responsibilities.
- Perform annual sidewalk inspections.
- Keep records of all inspections, repairs, cleanings and other activities.
- Document sidewalk conditions with photography or video.
- Maintain adequate liability insurance coverage.
If you any questions about liability coverage or would like a free insurance review, please call us at 877-576-5200.