My lease says I’m responsible if the windows or door lock breaks while I’m a tenant. Is that fair?

October 31, 2023 – Media Mention
Brick Underground

Herrick Litigation partner, Andrew Wagner, was interviewed by Brick Underground discussing responsibility for damages to windows and door locks for the duration of the lease for a residential tenant.

The article states, "The warranty of habitability — a set of requirements guaranteed by the law in every lease — supersedes any specific lease provision, says Andrew Wagner, a partner at [Herrick]. A broken window or door lock would arguably violate your right to reside in a "livable, safe, and clean apartment" as guaranteed under the warranty of habitability."

The article notes, "If you are throwing a party and one of your guests breaks a window, you could be held responsible for the cost of repairs, Wagner says. And a landlord has a right to [fine] a tenant whose "willful or grossly negligent" behavior causes substantial damage to the building under New York City’s Housing Maintenance Code."

But provisions asking a tenant to repair a broken window or door lock, without reference to who caused the damage, likely represent a landlord’s attempt to shirk their legal responsibilities, Andrew says. Adding, "It sounds like this is just another attempt to pass obligations of landlords on to their tenants... Anything can happen [in court], but my gut is telling me that that would not be enforceable."

Brick Underground adds, "While Wagner wasn’t sure how common these kinds of provisions were, he recommended renters consider the apartment market before asking for certain clauses to be removed from a lease before signing."

"Residential leases are not usually negotiated… because there are so many protections in place already [for tenants]," Andrew said. "If there's a shortage of apartments, and a prospective tenant starts raising too many questions, the landlord may see that as a red flag and say, 'this person is going to be trouble,' and will go on to the next person."

The article concludes, "But if you’re not in a rush to seal the deal, it’s worth asking for clarification about a provision that would require you to cover damages to your windows or door locks that weren’t your fault. It’s also worth watching out for as a potential red flag in a new lease, Wagner adds."

Click here to read the full article in Brick Underground.