Q. I rent the top floor of a brownstone that has direct access to the roof which I use as private outdoor space.
A few years ago, I built a deck and fencing on the roof. Unfortunately, it was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy.
Is my landlord responsible for repairing it?
A. No. When a tenant makes capital improvements to a property they are generally responsible for the maintenance of those improvements.
Even if your landlord explicitly approved of the installation of a roof deck and railing, that would not shift the liability for it to him or her unless your lease explicitly states otherwise.
Furthermore, your landlord may be able to hold you liable if the improvements you made result in damage that the landlord is responsible for (e.g. puncturing the roof membrane which could result in water damage to the building).
Though it is unlikely that it would be covered, you should check with your insurance company if you have renter’s insurance.
You could also ask your landlord if their insurance policy for the building would cover the loss, but bear in mind that a claim could potentially affect your landlord's premium and, in any case, many such policies explicitly state that tenants shall not have roof access other than in the event of an emergency.
Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. He is also the publisher of the Greenwich Village blog VillageConfidential.
Note: The information provided here is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and cannot substitute for the advice of a licensed professional applying their specialized knowledge to the particular circumstances of your case.