Most states don’t have snow removal laws, but most cities and counties do. Snow removal usually gets regulated by municipal ordinance. The common rule is for property owners to remove snow from adjoining sidewalks and common areas.
Residential Snow Removal Law(s)
Driveways and approach roads must be cleared of snow by the people who control the property served by those roads. Snow cannot be cleared onto a public highway.
Snow cannot be cleared onto a public highway.
Some non-municipal residential communities can charge an assessed fee for snow removal.
District of Columbia
Property owners must clear up to 36 inches’ width of snow on adjacent sidewalks, within 8 daylight hours of accumulation. They may pass this duty to tenants by written agreement.
Cities may charge private property owners for the cost of snow removal.
Residents are immune from liability for injury related to clearing snow, except for actual wrongdoing.
Property owners must clear snow from adjacent sidewalks within a reasonable time after a snowstorm.
Snow cannot be cleared onto a public right of way.
Snow cannot be cleared onto a state highway. Landlords must keep all common means of egress free of snow and ice. They can require occupants to keep egress in their personal dwellings free of snow and ice, by written agreement.
Snow cannot be cleared on or near a roadway or highway in a manner that obstructs driver visibility. Snow cannot be cleared onto any roadway or highway.
Snow cannot be cleared onto any highway.
In cities of over 100,000 people, property owners must clear snow from adjoining sidewalks.
The state constitution prohibits municipal ordinances requiring landlords and tenants to clear snow off sidewalks. In most cases, snow cannot be cleared onto a highway.
Snow cannot be cleared onto a highway in a manner that creates any hazard.
Snow cannot be cleared onto most highways.
Snow Removal Governed by Municipal Ordinances
Municipal (city and county) ordinances govern most snow removal on rental property. A snow removal ordinance usually applies to sidewalks that adjoin a building. The owner, manager, or tenant must clear snow from adjoining sidewalks, according to the rules laid out in the ordinance.
The responsible individual is usually the person in charge of the building. New York and Chicago apply this standard. In single- and two-family rental situations, this means the tenant has primary responsibility for snow removal.
Some cities, like Boston, are vague about who’s specifically responsible for snow removal. This lets a landlord place responsibility on tenants through a lease agreement. However, the property owner will still be the one fined for any noncompliance.
Landlord Liability Issues With Snow Removal
Court precedent in most states holds landlords liable for injuries related to untreated or improperly treated snow and ice. This liability is separate from (and regardless of) any snow removal statutes in the state. Tenants can sue landlords whose inaction on accumulated snow and ice leads to injury.
Specifics differ by location, but local governments mostly fall into two camps:
The “Reasonable Care” Standard. Under the “reasonable care” standard, a landlord must take reasonable care to protect people on the property from dangers. This is the more common rule. Under a standard of reasonable care, a landlord is liable for injuries that result from uncleared or improperly cleared snow and ice. Massachusetts is an example of a reasonable care state.
The “Natural Accumulation” Standard. The “natural accumulation” standard makes the landlord immune from liability for injuries related to natural accumulations of snow and ice. States are moving away from this rule in general, but it remains a relatively common standard. Landlords are still liable for snow and ice that are artificially affected by structures or improper clearing attempts. Ohio is an example of a natural accumulation state.
Because this is a premises liability issue, it usually can’t be reported to a housing agency. A person must be first injured and then sue the landlord.
“The burden and cost of maintaining a driveway or approach road within a highway right-of-way is upon the lands served by a driveway or approach road. A driveway or approach road must be maintained to conform the requirements of 17 AAC 10.040 and to accepted engineering practice. The department is not obligated to remove snow berms plowed into a driveway or approach road during its highway snow removal activities. A permittee may not plow snow from a driveway or approach road onto a highway, or interfere with highway drainage structures.”
“…An organization created pursuant to New Castle County ordinance or regulation has the authority to contract for snow removal services and include the cost of such snow removal services in assessments made by such organization to property owners of the residential development or community. Such charges or fees are considered assessments for the maintenance of open space and common facilities for collection and lien purposes…”
“The owner of a residential or commercial property that fronts or abuts a paved sidewalk shall, within the first 8 hours of daylight after the ceasing to fall of any snow or sleet, remove and clear away, or cause to be removed and cleared away, snow or sleet that is in front of or abuts a building or lot of land to provide a path that is the entire width of the sidewalk, up to 36 inches wide; provided, that a residential or commercial property owner may delegate this responsibility to a tenant, occupant, lessee, or other individual by written agreement.”
“Cities are empowered to cause all sidewalks and alleys to be cleared of snow, ice and rubbish, and the cutting and removal of trees, weeds and grass, and the removal of rubbish upon and from all private property within the city and the parking within the curbing abutting same, and to assess the cost thereof against the private property so cleared, and against the property abutting the parking, sidewalks and alleys so cleaned. Such assessment shall be collected as provided in section 50-1008.”
“… Any owner, lessor, occupant or other person in charge of any residential property, or any agent of or other person engaged by any such party, who removes or attempts to remove snow or ice from sidewalks abutting the property shall not be liable for any personal injuries allegedly caused by the snowy or icy condition of the sidewalk resulting from his or her acts or omissions unless the alleged misconduct was willful or wanton.”
“The abutting property owner is responsible for the removal of the natural accumulations of snow and ice from the sidewalks within a reasonable amount of time and may be liable for damages caused by the failure of the abutting property owner to use reasonable care in the removal of the snow or ice.”
“No person other than an employee in the service of the commonwealth or any political subdivision thereof or an employee in the service of an independent contractor acting for the commonwealth or any such subdivision shall pile, push or plow snow or ice onto a state highway so as to impede the flow of traffic on such way. Whoever violates this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred and fifty dollars. “
“The owner shall ensure every means of egress is maintained at all times in a safe, operable condition. For all exterior stairways, fire escapes, egress balconies and bridges, the owner shall ensure they are maintained free of snow and ice… The occupant is responsible for maintaining free of snow and ice, the means of egress under their exclusive use and control, provided there is a written rental agreement that clearly identifies the occupant’s responsibility.”
“…A person shall not remove, or cause to be removed, snow, ice, or slush onto or across a roadway or the shoulder of the roadway in a manner which obstructs the safety vision of the driver of a motor vehicle other than off-road vehicles. A person shall not deposit, or cause to be deposited, snow, ice, or slush onto or across a roadway or the shoulder of the roadway in a manner which obstructs the safety vision of the driver of a motor vehicle. A person shall not deposit, or cause to be deposited, snow, ice or slush on any roadway or highway…”
“The owner of property abutting on public streets in a city of the primary class is primarily charged with the duty of keeping and maintaining the sidewalks on such property in a safe and sound condition and free from snow, ice, and other obstructions.”
“Any person who shall put or place or cause to be put or placed any snow or ice upon the surface of the traveled portion of any class I, class III, or class III-a highway or state maintained portion of any class II highway for any purpose, except to provide a place necessary for crossing, recrossing and traveling upon said highways by sleds, logging or farm equipment, shall be guilty of a violation…”
“No person, other than an employee in the performance of his or her official duties or other person authorized by the Agency of Transportation (in the case of State highways) or selectboard (in the case of town highways), shall plow or otherwise deposit snow onto the traveled way, shoulder, or sidewalk of a State highway or a class 1, 2, or 3 town highway.”