Snow Removal Laws by State

Last Updated: September 7, 2023 by Roberto Valenzuela

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.

State Residential Snow Removal Law(s)
Alaska 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.
Colorado Snow cannot be cleared onto a public highway.
Delaware 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.
Idaho Cities may charge private property owners for the cost of snow removal. 
Illinois Residents are immune from liability for injury related to clearing snow, except for actual wrongdoing.
Iowa Property owners must clear snow from adjacent sidewalks within a reasonable time after a snowstorm.
Maine Snow cannot be cleared onto a public right of way.
Massachusetts 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.
Michigan 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.
Minnesota Snow cannot be cleared onto any highway.
Nebraska In cities of over 100,000 people, property owners must clear snow from adjoining sidewalks.
New Hampshire 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.
Rhode Island Snow cannot be cleared onto a highway in a manner that creates any hazard.
Vermont 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.

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Consequences for Failure To Provide Snow Removal

Landlord failure to provide required snow removal is a housing violation. State laws vary widely, but if a landlord doesn’t provide snow removal, the following remedies often are available: