We discussed snow removal and who’s responsibility it is between the landlord and tenant on our podcast “RentPrep For Landlords”
Here’s the audio from that podcast.
When you rent out your property to tenants, there are so many details to go through that snow shoveling and snow removal may not be your top priority to discuss. However, it’s an area that causes many landlords and tenant disputes and could even lead to a potential lawsuit in the form of personal injury from a slip and fall.
If you aren’t sure who is responsible for shoveling snow, do some research to get to the bottom of it and then have a discussion with your tenant about who bears the responsibility for snow removal from the property.
State Snow Removal Laws
The responsibility for snow removal is often determined by state law, so a lot depends on where you live and where your property is. Many states, such as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, specify that the owner of the property is responsible for snow removal has only so much time to remove snow. Often, the time frame is within 24 to 48 hours after the snow has stopped falling. State and municipal laws may also include specifics about snow removal that include not just shoveling or plowing, but also putting down salt, for example.
Other states, such as Ohio and Illinois, specify that the occupants of a rental property are responsible for snow removal, not the landlord. The laws usually outline a specific time limit for removing snow once it has stopped falling, again usually within 24 to 48 hours after the storm.
Municipal Ordinances on Snow Removal
Municipalities may also implement ordinances about snow removal that require either owners/landlords or tenants to clear snow despite what the state law does or doesn’t include. For example, the state of Illinois does not have any law requiring a property owner/landlord to remove snow and ice, however the city of Chicago does. So a landlord looking at the state law (occupant responsibility) would face penalties because of the city’s requirements (owner/landlord responsibility).
Some municipalities regulate snow removal responsibility based on the type of rental property. For example, the ordinance may state that for rental properties with three or more units, the landlord is responsible, while snow removal for a single family rental house is the responsibility of the tenant.
Snow Removal in the 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. Implement new language into the lease agreement upon renewal.
Do you live in the snow belt? How do you handle snow removal at your rental properties? Please share this article and let us know your snow removal situation in the comments below!
I am a tenant in Cambridge, MA. My husband and I rent a single family house. There is a common driveway for 6 attached homes and each owner owns the part of the driveway in front of their house. My landlord is overseas and has not been clearing any snow. The driveway remains buried in snow as does the entrance/ exit to our home. My lease does not explicitly state that we, the tenants, are responsible for snow removal. We have the standard lease that says we are responsible for the general maintenance of the property, which we certainly are doing. Can you help me understand what my rights are? Can I take legal action to force my landlord to clear the driveway so we have exit to the city street? Thanks.
Meenal, sounds to me like the landlord wasn’t prepared for the record setting snow Mass. is getting this winter. If you have exhausted all attempts to communicate with the landlord and he is ignoring your requests, then I would say to have the snow removed at your cost and deduct the amount from your rent. They key here is good communication. Don’t assume he knows how bad the situation is, or that snow removal is not listed on the lease. If him being overseas is causing a problem with communication, I would have the snow removed and remit your next month’s rent with a receipt for the snow removal.
I live in Buffalo, NY – we are no strangers to snow here. And sometimes no matter how well prepared you think you are the snow can cause problems for everyone. Legal action is always the absolute slowest and most expensive route to getting things done, therefore I would leave this as a last resort. Try reasoning and good communication. If that fails, call your local landlord/tenant court clerk and ask what the process is for filing a complaint in your county.
I live in MA, a tenant at will (no signed lease or any rental agreement) in a single family home. My landlord came by unannounced, complaining that I didn’t shovel out all exits of the house (3 total, we had shoveled 1 and were still working on another when they showed up) and had people start shoveling and told me they were sending a bill that I would have to pay with next month’s rent. Then they also had a plow come over even though I had told them the plow service that we paid already for this winter was coming tomorrow, they insisted it be plowed then and there and that I would also be billed for that. I told them to stop and that I would do it so I wouldn’t be billed and my landlord refused and told me to get back in the house. Is this legal? I thought that because we did not sign any agreement about snow removal that the landlord is responsible and cannot bill me for this.
Kelly, I understand your frustrations. And I think the situation could have likely been avoided if the landlord communicated better. From the sounds of it, I’m wondering if they weren’t under some pressure from the town or something to have the snow removed immediately.
With regard to your situation specifically, I would think that not outlining the responsibilities in a lease agreement would make holding you accountable for the charges difficult. It sounds to me like you won’t end up being a long-term tenant anyway, but I would try writing a letter communicating with the landlord. Explain where you’re coming from and that it may effect your tenancy in the future. If you’re a good tenant, any reasonable landlord wouldn’t want to lose you.
I live in Powell Ohio a d h e lived here for 4 years going on 5 years. The company I rent from removes the snow when it is at least 2 inches. The landlord doesn’t put down salt, but has salt by the accounting office in a bucket for tenants to put out for ice if we choose to. I was always told the reason they don’t put salt down because if they miss a spot people are always trying to sue. Well to me not putting any down shows yo don’t care about your tenants and some down is better than none. A prestigious with true moral standards sees there is salt down and they slip and fall to me isn’t gonna purist a lawsuit or maybe they will, but personally I wouldn’t if I see thert was some prevention applied. On e of the girls I know in the office told me you can’t sue the owner of you fall. Is this something that should be written in small print on your lease, and not word of mouth? I did call the landlord housing in Ohio and was told by law they have to remove the snow but do not have to put salt down and if you fall you can sue. I tilt her what one of the leasing agent’s told me that you couldn’t sue, she said she didn’t know anything about that you couldn’t sue. She stated to me she has never heard of that. And lastly, I saw something on the website that Ohio residents are responsible for their own snow removal. How can that be true when you are renting and don’t own the property? Thank you for your response.
Bev, thanks for reaching out. I don’t know what your lease looks like, but I can’t imagine many situations where you couldn’t be sued in a personal injury case if it happened on your property. Whether they are found negligent and lose the case is another story.
I have heard of cases where a landlord could prove that they did not perform certain maintenance responsibilities (especially if they’re not required by law) that deemed them not responsible for injuries that occurred as a result. I think this may be your property manager’s thought process.
I’m renting my house. In the lease it clearly says Tenant is responsible for snow removal. Would that include the roof?
Good question Stu. I would think that snow removal on the roof is above and beyond the traditional definition of “snow removal”. I would categorize that along the same lines as cleaning gutters or sweeping the chimney – typically tenant’s are not responsible for these things unless specifically outlined in the lease.
I am from Buffalo and I’m very familiar with the need to remove snow from a roof. This would only need to happen in very heavy snowfalls, or if the roof has a flat pitch. Either way, if the way to remove the snow is by climbing on the roof, I would NOT want my tenants doing this for liability reasons.
So I would check with your insurance company to see what your coverage is on a tenant climbing on the roof to perform maintenance. And then I would call your local court and ask if they see any cases involving snow removal from a roof and what the court’s position is on this in your area.
Thank you very much for the quick response. Since you were so quick and gracious to respond I’ll just assume we can meet over at my place and we can have an ice damn removal party. As a Buffalo guy I also assume you have all the tools…. It is sunny out today so mid afternoon works for me!
I do appreciate the answer.
HA! I’ve climbed many snowy roofs living here. Enough to know that it’s always best to be the one loaning tools and not the one climbing the ladder!
Hello, I live in a complex where the lease states “property owner is responsible for snow removal/landscaping. This winter we been slammed with snow and ice and I live on a hill and it gets very icy and almost unbearable to walk. My son has fell and hurt his wrist but it seems to be okay after I put ice on it. The office manager does not responsible back to my request to put salt down and the maintenance man said he is not putting down salt because it eats up the concrete. Is this fair for him to not to put down salt when something so simple can prevent tenants from being injured?
Jessica, I can’t say for sure, but it sounds like to me that the property owner does not want to be responsible for salting. Most states do not require salting and a lot of property managers don’t want to salt for a number of reasons. One being the damage it can do and the other is certainly liability. In other words, according to the law, if they start salting they must keep up with it. If they miss a time, or if it gets icy overnight and they couldn’t get to it, they would be liable for an accident because residents were accustomed to having it done by the management.
So I can understand where you’re coming from, but I have to believe there is a logical explanation for not salting from the management perspective. Perhaps a nice compromise would be for you to ask if you can salt your area on your own. This way you’re getting the safety issue addressed and the management company does not have to worry about liability.
I’m looking for info about snow and ice removal from roofs of apartment houses in MA. I have an apartment house and the guest of a tenant parked in the lot and a chunk of snow/ice fell from the roof and landed on their vehicle. They feel I am responsible but I can’t find anything online that would lead me to believe the landlord is responsible for clearing snow/ice from the roof. I’m responsible to clear snow and ice from common entrances, walkways and the parking areas but I can’t control snow falling off the roof can I? Thanks for any help you can offer.
Rob, I think you’re right – in MA you are not responsible for clearing snow off of a roof. From my experience living in Buffalo, and dealing with these sorts of issues often, the tenant’s insurance would cover the damages to the vehicle. I believe renter’s insurance would cover it as well if they have it. As a precaution I would double check with your policy (hopefully a landlord policy) and see what they have to say.
I have a lease that expired 3 years ago that states that the tenants are responsible for shovelling snow on the walkway and around our cars. I slipped and fell on a patch of ice and broke my ankle. When I told the landlord a few days after, she said she is not responsible because I fell was near my car, but I wasn’t. I was walking on the driveway to get to my car. My neighbor fell 4 days prior to me and she told the landlord and she had someone come and pour salt down. She was aware of how bad it was, because she told my neighbor that all gravel driveways are really bad. Does this make her negligent and is the provions in the expired lease still valid?
Lynda, the simple answer is – as long as you are still a resident, the original lease provisions apply. Once a lease expires your tenancy becomes month-to-month.
In terms of putting salt down, as far as I know there are no states that lump this into the same category as snow removal. In fact, most landlords/property managers will ofter have the tenant’s be responsible for this so they cannot be held liable for NOT salting. Which makes sense when you consider ice can happen within minutes of a temperature drop, unlike snow that takes some time to accumulate. So unless the landlord lives onsite, she’d likely never be able to keep up with the salting the very moment it needed it.
My advice is to contact your insurance agent who carries your renter’s insurance policy. Most policies cover personal injury. If you do not have renter’s insurance you should get it ASAP! It’s cheap (averages less than $20/month) and covers too many things to not have it.
I have a question so I agreed on my lease to do the snow removal but then I changed my mind because my back was hurting so much I couldn’t conti to remove snow for me n my landlord and the backyard,, she send me a text she will give me a new agreement lease my lease is tenancy at will but today is April 17 and except me to pay the changes on May 1,, to my understanding the new agreement lease should be given to me on April first so I could start paying the difference on May 1,,, so when I read the new agreement lease she charging me 50 dollars more to my rent and still except me to clean my front and backyard can she do that
A lease is typically paid a month in advance. So in other words, rent paid on May 1st would be applied for the tenancy from May 1st to the 31st. Not for the month of April.
So she would be correct, changes made on May 1st would be payable on May 1st.
Maaike, this is a topic near and dear to me because once upon a time I actually owned a chimney sweeping company!
Typically, if you (the tenant) is using the fireplace, it would be your responsibility to have it cleaned.
Think of it like a vehicle lease. Normal wear and tear items like tires and brakes are not covered under factory warranties because usage it out of the control of the manufacturer.
Just the same, if you had a structural defect that caused the fireplace to be inoperable the landlord would be responsible to repair. But normal maintenance, like cleaning, that is dependent on usage is your responsibility.
Either way, it never hurts to ask your landlord. They may have a preferred chimney sweep or offer to cover the costs. But don’t be shocked if they say it’s your responsibility.
If the landlord put information in a lease regarding snow removal, that is contrary to state law, which is right? For example, I live in a duplex and my landlord stated that tenant is responsible for snow removal in a document titled, “additional provisions.” If PA law states that the landlord is responsible for snow removal, do I still have to remove snow as a tenant?
I live in a rental house in Spokane, Washington, with a carport that has a flat roof. I am worrying about the structural integrity of the carport since we have received 25″ of snow in the last couple of weeks. Because of this, some questions keep floating around my head……. Whose responsibility is it to clear the snow from the roof of the carport? If the carport were to collapse, whose responsibility would it be for the repair? If it were to collapse while our cars are underneath it, whose responsibility would it be for the car repairs? We have auto insurance and renters insurance; but since the carport is part of the property, wouldn’t that fall under the landlords property insurance? There is no snow removal discussed in our lease agreement either. Our landlord is not really your typical property owner. He only has this one house, treats us as friends, and normally has us make any repairs to the house that is needed…..he’ll pay for the materials needed to make the repair, but not the time needed to make the repair or do the repair himself. Thoughts on how to approach this subject? Thanks so much for your time and consideration. <: ]