With the winter months upon us, it is important to know where the responsibility lies when it comes to snow removal.
The time frame for snow removal is usually dependent on state laws or municipal ordinances. Landlords and property owners are typically required to take care of snow removal within 24 hours of the end of a snowfall. For example, New York City requires any person in charge of a lot or building to clean snow and/or ice from the sidewalk within 4 hours after the snow has stopped falling, or by 11 a.m. if the snow has stopped falling after 9 p.m. the previous evening.
Snow removal is primarily the property owners or landlord’s responsibility but, in some cases, the tenant may be responsible for some aspects. However, the responsibility can also be transferred from a landlord to a tenant within the lease agreement. Depending on the state or municipal laws, tenants may be in charge of clearing their own sidewalks, doorways, steps or ramps, so it is always a good idea to let tenants know the limits of your snow removal responsibilities.
For example, it is not typically the property managers job to dig out cars in a parking lot or to re-plow a parking spot after a car has been moved. Another example is to let tenants know that snow plowing will be done within the legal timeframe after snowfall and you are not obligated to make special arrangements for tenants who need to leave earlier.
Curbs and sidewalks may be owned by the town, but many villages will put the duty on the landlord. Failure to comply with local regulations regarding snow and ice removal could result in a fine for the owner of the building, even if managing the sidewalk is spelled out in the lease agreement as the tenant’s responsibility. These responsibilities should be clearly outlined in a lease or contract to dispute concerns over snow removal expectations. Make sure to check with your local government office for snow removal codes.
In order to avoid any fines, law suits or bodily injury claims, property owners are expected to maintain the property and take any necessary steps to keep the area safe. This can include clearing snow, using salt or sand on sidewalks or placing cones on slippery floors. Taking these precautions are essential in order to prevent any foreseeable situations that can result in injury.
In terms of bodily injury, accidents due to snowy sidewalks are a serious liability. If someone falls on the snow or ice after the four-hour time limit has expired and is seriously injured, then the responsible party could be liable for some hefty damages. In addition to being fined, they could be sued by the injured party. The person who was injured may make a claim against both the owner and the management company for damages.
When in doubt, property owners and tenants who are named responsible in lease agreements should clear sidewalks of snow and ice without delay if at all possible.
Contact Cheryl Fitzpatrick to learn more.