Snow removal laws for Massachusetts property owners seems pretty straight forward. Essentially, you are responsible for removing snow and ice on your property to make it safe for residents and visitors. Failure to do so can result in ticketing and/or personal injury lawsuits. Questions often arise regarding public sidewalks and landlord versus tenant responsibilities, so below is some information that might help clarify these two for you.
Responsibility to Clear Public Sidewalks
There has been some past debate over whether property owners are responsibility for clearing public sidewalks in front of their home. Some lawsuits have even arisen over this question. City and town laws normally cover this particular issue, and most communities do require property owners to do so. After all, use of those public sidewalks is often necessary to access your property.
Snow Removal Timeframes
There are also specific laws on how quickly you must remove snow and ice from your property. These specific snow removal laws for Massachusetts property owners will vary by city and town. For instance, in the city of Boston, property owners have 6 hours to complete cleanup after a snow storm. In somerville, folks have until 10pm (for daytime snow storms) or 10am for evening storms. Check with your city or town for the specific rules that apply to you so you can avoid being ticketed for noncompliance.
Landlord versus Tenant Responsibilities
For rental properties, landlords are ultimately responsible for snow cleanup since they are the legal owners of the property. Some landlords may try to pass on this responsibility to tenants as part of the lease agreement. If the pathways in question are only used for that one tenant, this may be okay. However, landlords cannot pass on that responsibility when it comes to common driveways an walkways, including the public sidewalk. Additionally, even if a tenant agrees to remove snow and ice from a property, the landlord is still legally responsible. So, the landlord would be the one ticketed or sued if there is an issue. Therefore, it’s risky for a landlord to rely on tenants to perform the task.
More on Snow Removal Laws for Massachusetts Property Owners
Think about how many people travel by or on your property on a daily basis: the mailman, package delivery people, occupants of the home, visitors, etc. If any one of those people get injured while on your property (or on the sidewalk near your property), the property owner could be liable. Sometimes even a small amount of snow or ice can be dangerous. Take the recent icy conditions for example. Sidewalks, driveways, and roads have been covered in a very thin sheet of very slippery black ice.
It is important to promptly treat all snow and ice on your property as soon as possible. Shovel snow quickly. Sprinkle salt or sand on walkways and driveways. Keep a lookout for icicles that may form above those pathways as well. By being diligent about clearing the snow and ice from your property, you can avoid tickets from the city/town and injuries to people on your property.