Late last year and into 2018, the United States has seen a significant amount of snowfall. In states such as Massachusetts, rental property owners are liable when it comes to removing snow from the driveway as well as walkways. When you own property in the state, it is important to understand the snow and ice removal laws to ensure you do not face an injury lawsuit in the future due to a tenant injury in the winter weather.
Are You Responsible for Shoveling Snow on a Rental Property?
The short answer is yes. A court ruling from 2010 decided that all property owners, whether occupied or rental, can be deemed liable for failing to remove ice and snow from the property. There is now a general obligation of property owners to keep properties safe for visitors as well as guests. Snow and ice must be removed from walkways and driveways as a safety precaution. If you do not live in the region and rely on a management company for your property, it is important to ensure the snow/ice will be removed in a timely manner.
What if the Lease Includes Snow Removal Clause by the Tenant?
For savvy Massachusetts property owners, a clause might have been added in the tenancy agreement which requires the tenant to shovel and remove snow and ice from the property. If so, does this still protect the investor from liability as the property owner? This will be dependent on the property you own.
In general, landlords are primarily responsible for removing snow on a rental property. The State Sanitary Code states that all property owners and/or landlords have to keep egress from obstruction. The code states that the landlord must maintain all means of egress at all times in regards to snow and ice, providing a safe and operable condition of the property. This includes outdoor stairways, fire escapes, balconies, and bridges. These obligations are not to be negotiated.
The only time a landlord can require a tenant to remove snow and ice as their responsibility is when the dwelling is independent of egress, not sharing the rental with other occupants and the written lease states these terms.
Essentially, if you are a landlord in Massachusetts, do not take any risk and be sure to provide a clearing of snow and ice from a rental property. A landlord can face liability for personal injury if the tenant falls on the snow or ice based on state laws.
Depending on where your property is located, there are time constraints on when the snow must be removed. Take Boston for example. In the city, businesses must clean snow within three hours while residents have six hours. In other areas, the time frame is longer. Worcester allows for 10 hours to clear the snow.
As a landlord in a region where snow is prevalent, it is important to be prepared. Just as you try to prepare for quality tenants with background checks, you need to know the snow removal regulations in your area. Make sure to stay updated with the latest regulations for property owners at all times. By treating snow and ice often, you can avoid any issues and ensure your tenants stay safe and happy.