It’s that time of the year again: the Christmas lights are up; the air smells of pine trees and potato pancakes; and there’s a possibility of snow, sleet and ice.
There’s also a chance that someone might slip and fall at your co-op or condo property because of that snow, sleet and ice--and your corporation or association may be served up with a lawsuit in the New Year. So how can you steer clear of both snow and liability for your property?
Stephen Boonshoft, an attorney with Robinson Brog in Manhattan, defines the situation simply: “If there is a hazardous condition--and ice and snow are hazardous conditions--and someone slips and falls, there is liability for the owner of the property.” In the case of a co-op, the owner of the property is the co-op corporation; for a condominium, it’s the condo association. “If there’s an injury, there’s a cause of action,” says Boonshoft.
There is little difference in most situations in New York between condominium and co-op forms of ownership relative to this issue, explains Stuart Halper of Impact Management, a real estate management firm with offices in New York City and Westchester. “There is one possible difference, and that depends on the nature of the property," he says. "In most cases the corporation or association is responsible for common areas. In condominium ownership, where you have garden-style apartments, a condo owner may be individually responsible for a walkway leading directly to their specific unit.” In that case, the individual unit owner might be subject to liability in the event of a fall and injury if they have been negligent with respect to what is required by New York City rules governing ice and snow.
Boonshoft says that, “New York City law requires that you must clean the walk or sidewalk within four hours of the snowfall if the snowfall ends by 9 p.m. Overnight snow must be cleared by 11 a.m. the next morning.”