Shoveling Snow – Who is Responsible?

As a renter, you might assume that your landlord is responsible for shoveling your snow, but that’s not necessarily true. State laws vary on snow removal, and even within states, some cities and towns have ordinances that shift the burden for this kind of maintenance. Who’s responsible may differ depending on the property you’re renting and the terms of your lease as well.

Usually, if you live in an apartment complex with shared walkways and parking areas, your landlord will be responsible for keeping those areas clear. But if you’re renting a single-family home where you have sole control over the walkways and driveways, you may be responsible. And, in states like Massachusetts, the landlord’s responsibility is limited, even in larger complexes.

Understanding your responsibilities and your landlord’s means familiarizing yourself with three pieces of information:

What does your lease say?

Like many issues involving landlord/tenant rights and responsibilities, your lease is a good starting point. If you’re renting a single-family home, you may well find that you've agreed to take responsibility for snow removal along with cutting the grass and other seasonal maintenance. If you live in a larger community, your lease may be silent on the issue of snow removal. It’s less likely that the duty will be explicitly assigned to your property management company in the lease.

What does your state law say?

This is important if your lease is silent on the issue of snow removal, but that’s not the only reason for checking into your state laws. Some landlords, particularly smaller ones, use stock leases without being fully aware of the relevant statutes. If your landlord has a legal obligation, the language in your lease may not change that.

Are there relevant local ordinances? 

Some cities and counties have additional laws, called ordinances, that place obligations on either tenants or landlords.  While these ordinances won’t conflict with state law, they may increase your responsibilities—or your landlord’s.  You can usually find a copy of the local ordinances on your town’s or county’s website.

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