Rental Property Snow Removal: Whose Responsibility Is It?
March 9, 2018
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Depending on where you live, getting snowed in can be a matter of when, not if. Areas across New England and the Midwest are starting to expect at least one “snowpocalypse” every winter, grinding entire cities to a halt as legions of snow plows take to the streets. While the city deals with the roads, there are also sidewalks, walkways, and driveways to worry about. When it comes to snow removal, is it the landlord’s or tenant’s responsibility? It’s not a question many landlords are eager to tackle just after surviving the holidays, but it’s essential to making sure winter isn’t any worse than it has to be.
Responsibility Often Falls on the Landlord.
The state and municipal laws surrounding snow removal responsibility varies, and some are more nitpicky than others. The case is often that responsibility falls on the landlord. Many laws also state that the property owner will be liable if anyone sustains any injuries on the property or adjacent public sidewalk if it is not cleared, creating a pretty clear incentive for the property owner to make sure snow is removed in a quick and satisfactory fashion. Make sure you’re aware of what statutes apply to you and abide by them accordingly. Time frames of 24 to 48 hours after the snow was finished falling is a common deadline to have snow from public walkways removed.
In Any Case, Write it Into the Lease Agreement.
Laws stating that either the landlord or tenant must clear the snow is also common. In situations like these, if the landlord doesn’t want to hire a snow removal service or get up early in the morning to stumble their way through the remnants of a blizzard, they can have the tenants remove the snow. If you own properties in an area where you know you’ll get substantial snowfalls, write a clause into your lease agreement detailing who will remove the snow, how, and when. This ensures that all parties are aware of whose responsibility snow removal is, and you’ll have something to point back to if a tenant ever has any questions or disagreements about it. This stays true even if the law clearly states that the landlord is responsible for snow removal – ensuring that all parties are aware can’t do any harm.
Save Money by Offering Incentives or Recruiting Locally.
Another option is to include in the lease a clause stating that if the tenants decide to remove the snow themselves, they can receive a discount on rent for any relevant months. Many tenants, especially in cities, are more than eager to shave off any amount from their monthly rent, and snow removal can seem like a no-brainer for those trying to save money. If neither you nor your tenants are up to the task, the natural solution to turn to is snow removal businesses (there’s now even an Uber-like snow removal app). However, consider going with a more grassroots solution if money is tight. There are always people in the neighborhood looking for extra cash, whether it’s a 13-year-old whose allowance isn’t cutting it or someone just looking to make extra money on weekends. The old-fashioned method of putting up a few flyers around the block is a promising way to get those walkways and sidewalk cleared.
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