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 19 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 19 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?

  4. Dennis Robinson says:

    On January 3rd 2018 while going to my vehicle where I live in an apartment complex I slipped on an incline that was there for wheelchair access . The surface of the area I fell was packed with snow . When I feel I received a fractured and dislocated left ankle which required surgery and after weeks I have still not fully recovered only able to use 50% of my weight . My lease says that snow and ice removal is a courtesy and not a guarantee but there is nothing in there regarding any requirements of the tenants as far as ice or snow removal from sidewalks . Are there any laws in the state of Indiana which require apartment complex management to see that the public sidewalks within the complex are kept in a safe condition during bad weather for residents and visitors ?

    • Oh no! I am so sorry to hear of your injury. I wish you a speedy recovery!

      In terms of requirements to keep public walkways clear in an apartment complex, it really just depends on what your local laws say. Most snow removal laws are handled at the city and county level.

      I have heard a couple different scenarios:
      1. Management must keep apartment walkways clear of snow and ice
      2. If a manager chooses to remove snow and ice from public walkways, they become liable for any injuries or falls. But if they don’t keep public walkways clear, then they aren’t liable. In this situation is benefits the landlord to not attempt to clear walkways.

      Since this sounds like an injury liability case, I strongly suggest you speak with an attorney. A licensed attorney will have the best understanding of the local laws that pertain to you and what the best steps are moving forward.

      Good luck!

  5. becky nelson says:

    Becky nelson from troy new York .do a landlord have the responsibility. To removed snow from the back yard steps of a apartment build

  6. Lori says:

    I live in Maumee Ohio and I fell on an icy walkway on Sunday February 10th. My trimalleolar fracture to my ankle required surgery the following day. The. Ice storm that WAS PREDICTED was of no concern to my landlord. Other apartment complexes salted on Friday (probably to avoid paying their maintenance workers overtime for the weekend) but my complex did NOTHING! Which has been their MO since acquiring this property even though their motto is “our residents are our #1 priority”. I have pictures and I have talked to other residents who have fallen without injury several times and r willing to give statements. My lease says they r responsible for the removal. What r the state and city rules for Maumee Ohio.

    • Here’s what I found for the city of Maumee, OH from the city website on snow removal:
      Snow Removal
      All sidewalks must be cleared of snow and ice within 24 hours of a snow fall. Chapter 521.06(a) of the Maumee Municipal Code states “each single residential, commercial, or industrial property and owners of any multiple residential, commercial, or industrial property, or any unoccupied property…shall keep and maintain the same free and clear of snow, ice…debris. Violation of this standard of conduct will result in a Class B Civil Offense with an initial fine of $125.00. Please do not shovel snow from your driveway into the street. The plows will push it back into your drive approach. Remove the snow from your approach in the direction of travel. Cars parked in the street hinder the snow removal operation.

      see more here:http://www.maumee.org/residential_services/snow_and_ice_removal.php

  7. Matthew says:

    as a landlord i clean the walks with in the town law time frame but my tenant wants the walks cleaned at 4am and 10 am is there anything i can do to protect myself

    • Matthew says:

      sorry i am in berwick pa 18603

    • What does your lease say? If you are upholding the conditions of the lease, and you are meeting the town’s regulations regarding snow removal, in my opinion, it doesn’t sounds like you are doing anything wrong. A 4am clear time seems unreasonable to me; but it really depends on your lease and the local laws.

  8. Matthew says:

    Lease states snow will removed with in towns guidelines and the home was rented as a non-handycap resident the tenant has started dialysis since renting and leaves at 4am

  9. Lisa Talarico says:

    I rent retail space in Erie county NY . It is in my lease that the landlord is responsible for snow removal. This winter has been a nightmare. Myself or my employees have come to work to open the store and have not been able to get into parking lot . I have a truck so I can usually get in but cars (customers or employees ) can’t get in or if they can they get stuck. I don’t even open till 11am . The plow guy always has a excuse and this effects my business sometimes I can’t even open till 12 or 1 and if I open I dont get any customers because they can’t get into driveway. Do they have to plow before my business opens or can they keep doing this to me ?

    • If they provide plow services, I assume their biggest responsibility is meet local and county laws about snow removal requirements. If your lease does not have a specific time of day that snow removal will be handled, you could suggest adding an addendum or asking for it to change. If that doesn’t work, you might have to contract out snow removal yourself in order to meet your business’s needs. I would also check with your lawyer to make sure the lease terms are being met and if there are any local laws your landlord are violating.

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