Snow Removal: Whose Job Is It?

January 30, 2017

Wolfe Insurance Group

Categories: Snow

Snow Removal: Whose Job Is It?



Although it might not be the first thing renters look for in a lease, as soon as the snow flies, it’s crucial to know who is responsible for clearing the driveway and sidewalks. When it comes to snow removal, a miscommunication can lead to a flurry of frustration and even legal qualms. So who is saddled with the shovel? Well, it’s not a simple answer.


Some states, such as Massachusetts, have clear laws dictating that property owners are responsible for maintaining walkways, and only allow a tenant to be assigned the responsibility in the case of private walkways that the tenant alone uses.


In Ohio, landlords and their lessees have a little more flexibility: Snow removal and other lawn care can be tasked in the lease. So if you’re currently unsure, dig out your paperwork. Technically, there’s no law on Ohio’s books that requires the removal of a natural accumulation of ice and snow. However, in many cases, local ordinances will stick property owners with fines if sidewalks aren’t adequately walkable — some even dictate a maximum timeframe between snowfall and snow removal.


In the event that snowy or icy walkways lead to injuries, the burden of responsibility again gets muddled. According to Ohio code, landlords have a responsibility to “keep all common areas of the premises in a safe and sanitary condition.” Furthermore, “As a landlord, you may be liable to a person who is injured in an area you control or as a result of your failure to maintain and repair certain basic items as required by law or the lease.”


So, even if the lease dictates that the snow must be removed by the tenant, the landowner could still be legally responsible for injuries — unless the lease also dictates that the tenant would be responsible for fines and related costs.


Fortunately, with insurance — either as renter or as landowner — you’re covered in the event of injury. But it’s best to not wait until someone gets hurt to nail down responsibility: Read through your lease and talk it over with your lessee or landlord to make sure no one gets salty about snow removal.

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