Snow on Rental Property: Landlord and Tenant Removal Duties
This post was updated on December 20, 2022.
It's another snowy day and you can't wait for spring to arrive. But it's not here yet, and someone has to shovel all the snow covering the walkway. Is snow removal the responsibility of the property owner or the renter? That depends on your where you live, because snow removal laws vary by state and municipality.
Snow removal is required of owners in some places and renters in others, and sometimes local ordinances make demands, so it's not enough to know just your state’s snow removal law.
In addition to varying by jurisdiction, responsibility for snow removal can vary by type of real estate. Landlords for multifamily apartment complexes generally remove snow from parking lots, stairways, and other common areas. On the other hand, property owners typically pass snow removal responsibilities on to tenants of single-family rentals.
Snow Removal Laws
Snow shoveling, which seems like a simple enough matter, can get complicated when you consider state and local ordinances with demands like removing snow within a certain time frame. Failure to clear snow in a timely manner can result in fines that vary by location. Chicago's fines range from $50 to $500 per case. Boston's fines range from $50 to $200 per day.
Generally, most ordinances that demand removal of snow within a certain time frame require removal within 24 or 48 hours after the snow stops falling. But in New York City, for instance, snow removal from the public sidewalk must be completed within 4 hours after the snowfall ends under certain circumstances.
Owners are on the hook for snow and ice removal in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, while in Ohio and Illinois it is the renter's responsibility to clear the snow. But watch out Chicago owners and occupants because local law says snow removal is everyone's job, notwithstanding state law.
Clearing Up Confusion About Who Is Responsible for Shoveling
Making it clear who is in charge of shoveling snow in advance can prevent disputes between property owners and renters. Knowing who is responsible for removing snow can also lead to quicker snow removal, which can prevent personal injury lawsuits resulting from slip-and-fall accidents. Clearing snow should not be a mystery that the property owner and tenant solve during a winter storm — or worse yet — when someone's been injured because snow removal was neglected.
It is in a property owner’s best interest to know snow removal laws and to outline these in a lease. If you are a property owner that works directly with tenants, talk to your renters about expectations before the lease is signed. If you are a landlord that works with a property management company, make sure that your property manager understands the snow removal responsibilities under the lease agreement and that they can explain expectations for clearing snow to renters. This prevents problems down the line.
There are certain circumstances in which a property owner may choose to remove snow even though the lease agreement requires the renter to do the job. For instance, a landlord who is aware of tenants who are unable to shovel snow or who would have difficulty removing snow due to age or disability may find it necessary to find alternatives for snow removal to avoid fines.
Similarly, a landlord may find it necessary to clear snow when a tenant provides notice that they will be temporarily absent from a property during winter months.
Knowing who is responsible for snow removal, be it landlord or tenant, is half the battle in preventing battles. The other half, of course, is getting the shoveling done. Snow must be removed because slip-and-fall injury cases are costly, and negligent landlords pay a heavy price in court. Do everyone a favor and clear up confusion and snow as promptly as possible.
If you are an owner or tenant having trouble with a property dispute, talk to a lawyer. Many attorneys consult for free or for a minimal fee and will be happy to provide guidance.
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