Snow and Ice Removal – Who's Responsible?You are in Massachusetts and there has been a snowstorm. Who is responsible for the cleanup? According to a 2010 Supreme Judicial Court decision all Massachusetts property owners are under a legal obligation to keep their property free from dangerous snow and ice. In addition to requirements to clear private property of snow and ice many towns and cities have passed ordinances requiring owners to clear public and private sidewalks.
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You own rental property, is it still your responsibility? Property owners, not tenants, have the primary responsibility for snow and ice removal and are required to keep all means of egress safe, operable, and free from obstruction. This obligation includes balconies, fire escapes, bridges, and exterior stairways. While it is the landlord's ultimate responsibility, they may require their tenant to clear paths of egress not shared with other tenants, through a legal lease provision. It is important to note that the landlord may still be liable for personal injury resulting from slips and falls on snow and ice even when it is the tenant who is responsible for clearing that private entryway.
Typically in Massachusetts property owners and businesses are required to clear and make safe municipal sidewalks in front of and adjacent to their property. Your town or city can provide the exact guidelines that apply. The guidelines will include the time parameters by which the snow has to be removed. Penalties can be assessed for not abiding by the timelines as well as for shoveling snow onto the street, into a curb cut, ramp, or on municipal owned property. Commonly a 4-foot-wide path has to be cleared on sidewalks.
If someone does slip and fall due to winter conditions will your insurance policy provide coverage? Typically, standard Massachusetts homeowner's insurance policies and commercial general liability insurance policies do have liability coverage for theses slips and falls. Confirm this coverage with your insurance agent. Also make sure that your liability coverage is at least $500,000 to 1 Million.