Snow and ice are major hazards in the winter. They can cause damage to vehicles in parking lots and injuries to people on sidewalks, in driveways or in lots. Property owners are generally responsible for maintaining a safe place by removing snow and ice promptly. However, the responsibility is not quite as clear when the property is a rental.
Read the Lease
The first step is to read the lease. Your lease should designate all terms about snow removal, such as who is responsible and how long you have to get the snow removed. If the lease doesn’t address the issue, you may want to talk to your landlord and have it added as an addendum. You want to make sure everything is spelled out to prevent future issues that may arise if someone gets hurt.
In commercial leases, these details will most likely be addressed. However, residential leases can be quite basic and not cover a lot of issues on responsibility. The key thing to remember is not to assume or to ignore it if snow removal isn’t mentioned in the lease.
Know the Law
While you may expect your landlord to know what the state and city laws are regarding snow removal, don’t assume they do. Just because the lease states one person is responsible or specific terms, it doesn’t mean it follows the law.
Some states say that the property owner is responsible for snow removal. They may be given 24 hours or longer to get it removed. Other states require the tenant to take care of removing the snow.
Don’t stop at state law. Municipalities may have their own ordinances to follow. In fact, they can differ from state law. They may vary based on the type of rental or number of renters. For example, snow removal in a singly family house may be the responsibility of the renter while apartment buildings or those with a minimum number of tenants may be the responsibility of the landlord.
What Should You Do?
Remember that you may be held responsible for any accidents that occur if someone is injured because of snow or ice. If it’s your job to have the snow and ice removed, find out the timeline for doing so to prevent being considered negligent.
If the landlord or other party is responsible and they don’t maintain their responsibilities, you could still get sued. You would then have to prove that you were not responsible, so make sure you have everything in writing and know the laws that govern where you work or live. You also want to make certain that you have renter’s insurance to cover accidents that happen. This coverage only pays for accidents that happen for which you are liable, so find out what your liability is when it comes to snow and ice removal.
Take the time to find out about the laws in your city and state on snow removal and protect yourself from possible lawsuits.