Are Landlords Responsible for Snow Removal?

Last Updated: September 12, 2023 by Roberto Valenzuela

There are few state laws that govern a landlord’s responsibility for now removal. Landlords usually must clear snow in common areas they control. The lease or a local code will often decide matters beyond that.

What Are the Standards for Snow Removal on Rental Property?

Most states have no state laws regarding snow removal on rental property. This is more often handled by local maintenance codes. The lease usually controls whether it’s the landlord or tenant who has the duty to obey local snow removal laws.

Leases Covering Snow Removal

A written lease with a snow removal clause is nearly always enforceable. A landlord and tenant can agree in writing about duties like snow removal in almost every state.

When There’s No Lease Provision: Single- and Two-Family Property

Required snow removal on single-family and two-family properties is usually the tenant’s job. Tenants on such properties typically control the common areas, and in most cases, landlords aren’t responsible for upkeep in areas they don’t control.

When There’s No Lease Provision: Multi-Unit Property

Landlords must maintain the common areas of most multi-unit property. This means snow removal is often the landlord’s duty in multi-unit common areas. Tenants are responsible only for areas they control.

State Laws Requiring Snow Removal

It’s uncommon for state law to specifically cover a landlord’s snow removal duties. New Hampshire law even prohibits requiring landlords or tenants to do snow removal for sidewalks.

Most snow removal laws, as with Rhode Island, only prohibit removing snow in a way that creates a public hazard. Only the following places have some form of statewide mandate for residential snow removal:

  • Alaska
  • District of Columbia
  • Iowa
  • Massachusetts
  • Nebraska

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Local Laws Requiring Snow Removal

Many local codes cover snow removal. For example, the Boston city code specifies the timing and type of clearance required after snowfall. Most often, such local laws place responsibility on property owners rather than tenants.

Common Law Standards Requiring Snow Removal

State common law controls if there’s no applicable statute, local code, or lease terms. Common law differs state to state. Many places, like Ohio, reject most liability for natural accumulations of snow.

In states that allow liability for snow removal, it generally requires the following elements:

  • Legal Responsibility Over the Area. Who has primary day-to-day control over the area, the landlord or the tenant?
  • Dangerous Condition. Is the snowfall in an amount, and place, that could be dangerous to anyone?
  • Notice About the Danger. Has the responsible person had a fair chance to become aware of the dangerous condition?
  • Opportunity to Cure. Has the responsible person had a reasonable opportunity to address the dangerous condition?

A person with legal control over an area, who has notice of a potentially dangerous snow condition, must fix it within a reasonable time. They are otherwise often liable for negligence if anyone gets injured as a result.

Consequences for Failure To Remove Snow

State and local laws vary widely, and landlord failure to remove snow isn’t always a violation. Where the landlord has a legal duty and doesn’t provide snow removal after proper notice from the tenant, the following remedies often are available: