Who is responsible for snow removal?
Generally, whoever owns the property is responsible for removing snow and ice from the walkways. In some areas, local governments take care of snow removal from public walkways or require property owners to do so within a certain amount of time. Legal requirements to clear snow may be part of:
- Local or state law.
- Lease Agreements.
- Homeowners’ association (HOA) bylaws.
- Service contracts.
Additionally, if you rent or own a property, you may be legally and financially responsible for injuries on your property. This includes injuries caused by not removing snow or ice from the walkways in a reasonable amount of time.
Snow removal laws
Some states and local governments have their own laws about snow removal. Other states do not, especially states that see little to no snowfall. Sometimes, states let local governments or property owners make their own rules.
State snow removal laws focus on keeping people safe on sidewalks and other public walkways. New York City, for example, requires property owners to shovel snow from sidewalks and other public walkways that are on or next to their properties. They do not have to do this while it is still snowing, but they must clear the snow within a certain amount of time after the snowfall stops. This could be within four hours if the snow stops during the day, or by 11 a.m. if it stops overnight.
Besides laws, contracts can say who is responsible for removing snow. For example, a Lease Agreement might make it the job of the landlord or the tenant, or an HOA might agree to hire a landscaping company to handle it. Unlike state or local laws, which usually deal only with the removal of snow from public walkways, leases can require snow removal to protect the property. This could mean shoveling driveways and clearing snow from roofs.
In a condo or apartment complex, for example, the landlord or HOA is probably responsible for removing snow from the common areas. In a single-family home, the landlord or the tenant could be responsible for snow removal.
If a Lease Agreement does not say who must remove snow, the landlord and tenant could sign a Lease Amendment to add a rule about it. If a condo owner is renting out their unit, the Condominium Lease can tell the tenant who is responsible for what. If you are renting out part of the house where you live, a Roommate Agreement can help you decide who is responsible for what.
Even without specific state or local snow removal laws, not removing snow can lead to personal injury claims if someone slips and falls on your property. Premises liability, a type of personal injury claim, lets a person sue a property owner for injuries suffered on that person’s property. This usually happens if the property owner did not fix a dangerous problem or did not warn people about it. This could include the buildup of snow or ice.
How soon after a snowfall does snow or ice have to be removed?
If you are legally required to remove snow, the amount of time you have to do so depends on where the rule comes from:
- Most state or local laws require snow removal within a few hours after a snowfall.
- Leases and HOA rules might require regular snow or ice removal as well as shoveling within a certain amount of time after a snowfall.
- Premises liability law usually requires property owners to try to remove hazards, such as large amounts of ice or snow. It does not set a certain time limit as long as the property owner tries to lower the risk of injury. Whether or not a property owner has run afoul of premises liability laws will depend on the specific circumstances surrounding the injury being claimed.
What happens if I do not shovel snow on my property or remove snow on my roof?
Leaving snow on your sidewalk could lead to a fine or other penalties from your city, county, or HOA. It could also make it possible for someone to file a personal injury claim if they slip and fall.
Leaving snow on your roof or driveway could damage your property. As snow melts on your driveway or sidewalk, water can seep into cracks in the concrete. If it freezes again, this can cause the cracks to grow. Snow on your roof may cause all kinds of damage to your home, from water damage caused by melting snow to damage from the weight of snow buildup. This can cost you money and cause problems.
Landlords who have Lease Agreements that make them responsible for snow removal could face legal trouble if they do not remove snow promptly. They can probably at least expect to get a Tenant Maintenance Request or a Complaint to Landlord. Depending on how long they wait to remove the snow, tenants may have legal claims against the landlord.
What is the quickest way to remove snow or ice?
Safety is the most important thing to consider when shoveling snow. It is well known that shoveling snow is no easy task. Furthermore, the cold temperatures and slippery conditions make it rather dangerous.
If you are in decent shape, then good boots, gloves, and a snow shovel might do the trick, but it can be hard work. A snowblower could be worth investing in. If you need to remove ice, rock salt and other de-icing products may be helpful. Some de-icers can damage pavement, so it is good to research them online before you buy.
You could also look into hiring a snow removal service. These services often include snow removal from both driveways and walkways during the winter months. Some services charge monthly fees, while others might have a flat fee for the entire season. Some may limit the number of service calls, or have varied prices depending on how much work is required. Regardless, it is important to understand the terms of the service, when they will show up, and who you can contact for service calls.
What happens if a tenant or visitor slips on ice and is injured?
Property owners have a legal duty to keep their property reasonably free of danger. If they know there is a hazard, the law of premises liability says that they usually must either repair it or warn people about it.
Premises liability law might let tenants and visitors sue property owners if they suffer an injury because of a dangerous condition. In most cases, the injured person has to prove that the property owner failed to repair the hazard or warn people about it. Injury cases are very fact-dependent and vary from state to state. If you are concerned about potential injury claims, speaking with a lawyer familiar with the laws in your state can help provide some certainty.
Whether you are a tenant, a property manager, or a property owner, you might have more questions about ice and snow removal. A Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney can answer your specific questions or help you understand the law in your area.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.