Association Responsible for Sidewalk Snow/Ice Removal

 

Rivas sued the unit owners, Greenwich Reade Associates and DG Associates, as well as the association and sports club, seeking to recover damages for the injuries she sustained from her fall.

Greenwich and DG filed a motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and cross-claims against them. They asserted that they owed no duty to remove the snow and ice from the sidewalk because they were not adjoining landowners; rather, pursuant to the condominium’s declaration and bylaws, the association was required to remove snow and ice from the common areas of the premises that were exposed to the elements, including the sidewalk.

The association’s bylaws provide that the condominium, “shall operate, maintain, repair, restore, add to, improve, alter and replace general common elements and residential limited common elements as described in the declaration.” They further provide that, “each unit and all portions of the common elements shall be kept in first-class condition, order and repair (and free of snow, ice and accumulation of water with respect to any French balcony, terrace, roof or other part of the property exposed to the elements) by the unit owner or condominium board, whichever is responsible for the ordinary maintenance thereof as set forth herein.”

The condominium declaration provides that the common elements are:

[C]omprised of the land and those rooms, areas, corridors and other portions of the building (other than the units), as well as those facilities therein, either currently or hereafter existing for the common use of the units or of the unit owners or necessary for, or convenient to the existence, maintenance, management, operation or safety of the property.”

“Property” is defined as:

. . . the land, the building and any structures attached thereto, all of the improvements erected or to be erected on the land, all easements, rights and appurtenances pertaining thereto and all other property, real, personal or mixed, used or intended to be used in connection therewith.

“Land” is defined as:

. . . that certain tract, plot, piece and parcel of land situate, lying and being in the city, county and state of New York, as more particularly described in Exhibit A to the declaration.

The court noted that, generally, a landowner owes a duty to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition under existing circumstances, which includes the likelihood of injury to a third party. The administration of a condominium’s affairs is principally governed by its bylaws, which, essentially, set forth an agreement among the unit owners about how the condominium will operate and the respective rights and obligations with respect to individual units and the common areas.

The court found that the Reade House condominium bylaws clearly provided that the board was responsible for the maintenance and repair of the general common elements of the premises and for ensuring that other parts of the premises exposed to the elements be kept free of snow and ice. Although the bylaws and declaration did not specifically address whether the sidewalk abutting the sports club was classified as a “common element” or part of the “property,” there was substantial language in the documents that supported a conclusion that the sidewalk was a general common area of the condominium. In addition, there was no direct evidence that Greenwich and DG were responsible for maintenance of the sidewalk. In fact, evidence was presented that the association performed ice removal on the sidewalk on many occasions.

The court ruled that the association was responsible for snow and ice removal from the sidewalk because the association was the owner of the land and pursuant to the declaration and bylaws of Reade House Condominium, responsible for maintenance of the common elements.

The court granted the defendants’ motion, dismissing the complaint and cross-claims asserted against them.