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One reason landlords hate when commercial or residential tenants perform alterations in their buildings is that the activity triggers liability for any injury that may occur, even when the work is undertaken without the owner's consent.

In Uribe v. Fairfax, LLC , for example, Michael Garstin -- a tenant in a building owned by Fairfax, LLC (and others) -- hired a contracting company to perform alterations to his apartment. During the course of that work, John Uribe, one of the contractor's employees, was injured when he fell off a ladder, filed suit under Labor Law 240(1) to recover for his injuries, and, was awarded relief against the landlord.

Because Garstin had breached his lease by permitting the alterations and hiring contractors without the owner's consent, Fairfax sued Garstin for "indemnification" -- finding the tenant culpable and directing him to reimburse Fairfax for the monies paid to Uribe.

After the New York County Supreme Court dismissed its claim, Fairfax appealed to the Appellate Division, First Department, which affirmed.

Since Garstin wasn't in the apartment when the project was underway, didn't supply any tools nor instructed (or supervised) the work, the AD1 concluded that Garstin's "alleged violation of the lease [was] not relevant to the issue of common-law indemnification in light of the lack of evidence that the accident was attributable to negligence on [Garstin's] part."

In other words, even though the tenant had "unclean hands," and disregarded the requirements of his lease, the owner ultimately got stuck with the bill for the accident.

What landlord wouldn't consent to an alteration of that outcome?

To download a copy of the Appellate Division's decision, please use this link: Uribe v. Fairfax, LLC