Property Management, Tenant Selection, Real Estate News & Tips

Am I Responsible for Snow Removal at My Rental Property?

By on November 30, 2016 in Education with 6 Comments

snow removal laws rentalsWith the official first day of winter only a couple weeks away, property owners need to have a plan in place for snow season. In fact, all residents that live in a snow zone need to have a snow plan well before the first flake falls.

If you own or manage a rental property you may be wondering who is responsible for snow removal – landlord or tenant?

I hate to break it to you, but the answer is almost as annoying as having to drag yourself out of a cozy bed to start shoveling.

When it comes to landlord vs. tenant snow removal, the answer is … it depends! (Hah, figured it was going to be something vague like that).

Here’s the scoop on snow removal for rental properties.

Depending where you live, your city may or may not have a local ordinance about snow shoveling requirements. Typically, if you own a house (or business) that borders a public walkway or sidewalk, the owner is charged with keeping the sidewalk clear of snow and ice.  These rules give time frames for when snow needs to be cleared and failure to comply will result in a fine.  

Often, the time frame is within 24 to 48 hours after the snow has stopped falling. State and municipal laws may also include language about snow removal that includes de-icing procedures like putting salt or sand down after you shovel.

Additionally, when shoveling snow from the sidewalk, it needs to be stored on private property, not simply dumped on the road which is considered public property.  Patricia Stell, the city recorder of Bend, OR explains to the Bend Bulletin, “The sidewalk and street is considered a public right of way, and a homeowner can’t dump snow back on the right of way. That means the snow has to be stored on your private property.”

Other snow removal laws can be even more confusing for a property owner, where the owner holds zero liability until he actually moves the snow and then he becomes liable if an accident occurs as the result of snow removal.  See this example of snow removal at an apartment complex in Arkansas.

You should also check with local laws regarding parking restrictions on snowy days.

A Landlord’s Responsibility for Snow Removal

While landlords of single-family rental properties can specify in the rental agreement that snow removal as the tenant’s responsibility in most states and provinces, multi-family rental properties often have common walkways that the landlord must maintain, and liability is a real concern.

If you own or manage a multi-unit property, the best course of action is to take on snow removal yourself or hire a service. If you own a single-family rental property, you can include snow removal in your lease agreement as the tenant’s responsibility. When you create the tenant-landlord agreement, it’s important to be clear about when and where the snow needs to be shoveled. For example, you should specify how soon after a snowfall a path needs to be cleared and how wide the path needs to be.

Keep your resident updated on the local laws regarding snow disposal and offer safety tips to reduce the risk of injury while they do it. To ensure regular shoveling of the property, you might want to provide your tenant with a shovel and the salt or sand needed to prevent anyone from slipping on your property post-shoveling.

If you are a renter here’s what you should do when it comes to snow season – Check your lease! The lease should expressly state who is responsible for snow removal. Your landlord should be familiar with the local laws about time frames for shoveling snow.  If you are lucky, a super nice landlord may state in the lease that he will come shovel the sidewalks for you! Your landlord or property manager may also have rules in place that prevent snow removal because that could make the property owner liable if an accident occurs. Now is the time to check in with your landlord or property manager so you know what to do before a snow storm hits.

Snow Removal in Your Lease Agreements

Proper wording on the lease agreement can help eliminate a lot of confusion on who is responsible for snow removal. The lease agreement should reflect the state or municipal laws on snow removal and clearly define any details concerning time and so forth. If your lease agreement doesn’t include language about  snow removal responsibilities, create an addendum that expressly discusses it and make sure both of you sign it.  Make sure to have your lease agreement reviewed with an attorney who is familiar with landlord-tenant laws and snow removal requirements in your area.

To learn more about the snow removal laws in your state check out this guide:

The Complete Guide to Snow Removal Laws by State

Do you own a rental property in a snow zone? Tell us how you manage snow removal with your tenants in the comments.

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About the Author

About the Author:

Kaycee manages marketing and media relations for Rentec Direct, bringing a unique perspective to the world of property management and proudly shares industry news, products, and trends within the community.



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There Are 6 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Donna Schneider says:

    Can you help me find out more info. I live in Southern Delaware in a development without a community association. The builder owns( rents about half) When we have snow we are stuck. He never comes and plows our road. It is a development of 13 single family homes with no street sidewalks. Only a road in. In 2010 we have a back to back blizzard he only came because I called him. I was stuck for 4 days. If he owns half why is he not responsible to provide snow removal?

  2. MR. Morris Levine says:

    I live in Nassau County Long Island and My Housing angency owns the house but they didn’t shovel the sixewalks infront of the house or the back yard all they shoveled was the driveway.I live in housing for people who are mentally ill and the head of maitence said they only have to shovel a path so we can get out of the house. I know the law is that there supposed to shovel the sidewalk also infront of the house and the sidewalk on the other side of the driveway. The agency that I live with is Federation Of Organization.

    • What does your lease or housing agreement say? Perhaps a condition of the lease is that they will only shovel the driveway? And the residents are responsible for the sidewalks. Some city laws put liability on the shoveler if someone falls on a snowy sidewalk that was shoveled, so it might be liability thing for your housing agency. If you believe that your agency is breaking the law, you should consider reporting them. But check your lease or housing agreement first.

  3. Jill says:

    I live in subsidised housing in LaPorte county, IN. My landlord has asked a tenant here to be responsible for clearing the main sidewalks. My landlord is only here 2 days a week, so this tenant can pick and choose when he wants to remove snow. We just got hit with a storm and nothing has been cleared. My landlord also told me that the parking lot will not be plowed until the snow has come to a complete stop. It has snowed 3 days non stop, I do not understand how this can continue, people are getting stuck coming in and out of our parking lot creating a major safety hazard. I’ve tried looking up lawsin Indiana regarding this matterand haven’t found anything. My lease simply states that I need to shovel from my front door to the sidewalk. That is all. Very vague. can u please help me?

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