Is a Tenant Allowed to Make Interior Alterations Without Causing Injury to the Premises ?

A tenant may not make extensive and significant alterations without the consent of the landlord. (Agate v. Lowenbein, 57 NY 604 [1874].) In Agate, the lease allowed the tenant to make interior alterations as long as no injury to the premises occurred. (Supra, at 605.) However, the Court recognized that injury to the premises could only be ascertained by an examination of the facts: "Whether the acts which defendants did really caused injury, or whether they were reasonably required for the enjoyment of the premises according to the business which they carried on, cannot be determined as a question of law, but is rather a matter of fact. It depends upon the character of the building ... the nature and requirements of the business of the defendants ... the extent of the alterations and their effect upon the property, whether permanent or transitory." (Supra, at 610.) More recent cases maintain this view in the context of both statutory and contractual restrictions on the right to make alterations. In Rumiche Corp. v. Eisenreich (40 NY2d 174 [1976]), no controlling lease provisions existed and the landlord commenced the holdover on the basis of New York City Rent, Eviction and Rehabilitation Regulations 52 (a) which prohibited the tenant from " 'inflicting serious and substantial injury upon the landlord.' " (Supra, at 176-177.) In Rumiche, the tenant replaced a fallen ceiling, repaired a defective light fixture, attached a wooden closet to a wall and erected a wooden frame around the window. The Court held that these alterations did not run afoul of the statutory proscription against alterations causing substantial injury to the premises. (Supra, at 181.)