While winter can be one of the most beautiful times of the year, it can also be one of the most infuriating. From driving on icy roads to clearing your car every morning, winter brings snowfall, and snow can cause many issues for landlords.
One of the most common problems that landlords come across is the issue of tenants not shoveling their sidewalks, walkways, or driveways. Worse, some tenants wrongly believe that it is your responsibility to clear it even if their lease states otherwise.
It’s critical to have a snow removal letter to tenants in your form arsenal so that you can send it to the tenants throughout the winter season as needed. This letter can remind tenants of the guidelines and ensure that your properties are taken care of.
A Table of Contents for Tenant Snow Removal Responsibility
- Who is Responsible for Snow Removal At a Rental Property?
- Snow Removal Letter to Tenants Form
- How to Use the Snow Removal Letter
- Clearing the Driveway (and the air!)
Before we get into the best way to deal with tenant snow removal issues, let’s talk about who is actually responsible for removing the snow.
If you have a multi-unit building, it is likely that you as the landlord are responsible for removing any snow. The specifics of this responsibility will depend on your local laws and codes, but most areas dictate that outdoor walkways and sidewalks would be considered common areas for multi-units, and you would, thus, be responsible for the removal.
For single-family homes or divided units, however, the tenant can be responsible for the snow removal. The best way to ensure that the responsibility is made clear to all parties is to include a clause about this in the lease.
Clarifying the policy on snow removal in the lease is the best way to ensure that all parties are aware of what will happen when snow falls.
- What snow removal the tenant must take care of
- What snow removal the landlord will take care of (if any)
- How long the tenant has to clear snow
- Local rules on snow removal
- What will happen if tenant does not remove snow
It is important to include the local rules about snow removal. Many areas have rules that require snow to be cleared within 24 hours of the snowfall ending. If your tenant does not remove the snow in a reasonable amount of time, your lease may include a stipulation that allows you to remove the snow at their expense.
Remember that local law will always trump lease agreements if a lawsuit were to occur. Ultimately, the local law will decide who is responsible for any liability, so be sure that both you and your tenant fully understand both your lease agreement and what local laws are in place about snow removal.
Having this information in the lease is all essential so that you can enforce these policies to the tenant without them being unaware of them. The lease is the best way to ensure any policy agreed upon between you and the tenant is legally binding.
If you have a snow removal clause in your lease and your tenant is not removing their snow according to the agreement, it’s time for you to send them a letter explaining the problem.
Our sample letter will give you an idea of what you should include in this letter:
|Snow Removal Letter to Tenants|
Now that you’ve seen a sample letter, let’s break down the important information that should be included and why you must include each item.
Part 1: Basic Information
First, include basic information such as the date the letter is written, the tenant name(s), and the property address. All of this information serves to identify who this letter is to and when it is sent out.
Part 2: The Notice
Next, outline exactly what the tenant needs to do.
In our sample form, we detail the following in a short, simple paragraph:
- What areas need to be cleared
- How they should be cleared
- Any other local requirements that may affect how they remove the snow
This information is meant to remind the tenant of their responsibility. Giving them clear and direct information about what they need to do is essential. There is no need to blame them for not doing it sooner; this is a simple reminder and notice of responsibility.
Part 3: The Consequences
Now, list the consequences that will occur if the tenant does not deal with the snow removal issue in a timely manner. It’s important to tell them this so that they understand that you are serious about the issue and will act on it if they do not take corrective action.
The specific consequence should match that which is laid out in your lease agreement. Our sample form shows our recommendation that you have the snow removed at the tenant’s expense if they do not remove it themselves.
Part 4: Contact
Remind the tenant that they are welcome to discuss this with you. Include your contact information so that you can help them comply with this requirement as soon as possible should they have any problems doing so at this time.
It’s essential that your tenant takes care of the driveway, sidewalks, and walkways as agreed upon in your lease agreement. While it may seem like a personal choice about whether or not to shovel your sidewalks, many local laws require that snow is cleared.
As a landlord, you should enforce snow removal requirements on your properties. Snow and ice can be a safety concern, but it can also cause problems with the property itself if you aren’t careful. For this reason, having clear policies about who is responsible for snow removal at a rental property is essential.