Why You MUST Address Snow Removal with Renters

With an average annual snowfall of 79 inches, Durango has a couple of other numbers relative to snowfall that every landlord should know: 26-31.  It’s a section of Durango’s Municipal Code and reads, “It shall be the duty of the owner, Tenant, and occupant of any premises abutting or adjoining any public sidewalk to remove all snow and ice from such sidewalk.”  If you fail to remove the snow in a timely manner, you can expect the execution of Code 21-37 (hint: assessment of costs).  It goes on to say, “if any city worker has to accomplish compliance with 21-36, then the property involved shall be assessed the cost thereof plus an additional amount of up to twenty-five dollars ($25.00) to cover administrative costs…” Code 21-38 tells you where to put the snow (be nice!).  Last winter, the city of Durango issued 36 notices of violation for snow and ice removal.  In addition to removal of hazardous snow and ice from public sidewalks and access routes, the snow must be removed in a manner that is compliant with the ADA which requires that enough snow is removed to provide room for a wheelchair or a minimum of 36 inches.

Address snow removal tenants
Ultimately, if you fail to remove the snow and ice from any public access adjacent to yours or fail to compel your Tenant by enforcing the lease, you may find yourself on the losing end of a lawsuit.  But who’s responsible for removing the snow?  You or your able-bodied Tenant?


The answer to that lies in your lease.  In most states, snow removal for multi-family rentals is the Landlord’s duty, but single-family tenancies can be quite different and specifics must be addressed, in detail, in the lease.  Every Landlord-Tenant lease Agreement requires detail that is in compliance with state and local ordinances and should address the following:


Who is responsible for removing the snow?
Who is responsible in the event the primary party is unable (disabled, unavailable)?
How much snow should fall before it is removed?
When should it be removed?
How wide the path needs to be?
What is the timeframe for removing the snow?
What method?
Who is financially responsible for paying potential fines in the event of non-compliance?


While your lease will probably expect the Tenant to be responsible for snow removal, you might find yourself among the Landlords that prefer stipulating that the Tenant is not to remove the snow because of the potential liability to the Tenant (back injuries, heart attack, fall) or the potential liability to others from not doing a good job or from improperly disposing of the snow. That decision would also need to be spelled out explicitly.


A thoroughly well-worded and legally-binding lease will do a great deal to eliminate the confusion about who is responsible and how they are to execute that responsibility.


If the lease, agreed to and signed by both parties, holds the Tenant responsible but the Tenant is not clearing the walkways, as specifically detailed in the lease agreement then what?


Find out what the problem is first.  Maybe they need equipment? Are they ill? Is this an exception or a problem?


If you determine that the Tenant is simply choosing not to bundle up and go outside to take care of their Tenant obligations then immediately notify them in writing of their responsibility. A paper trail will come in handy and helps to hold them responsible, in Court if necessary, if someone is injured due to your Tenant’s neglect.


If they still will not comply with the lease you can issue an eviction notice for non-compliance.  In the meantime, you can not leave the snow and ice to present a hazard to others and you can certainly expect to be fined if the City has to take on the obligation.


If you do get fined, then the details outlined in your signed lease with the Tenant should already have spelled out that the party responsible for removing the snow will be the party responsible for any fines that result from a failure to comply.


If you have a disabled Tenant whose request for a reasonable accommodation exempts them from the responsibility of shoveling a sidewalk you can consider charging them for the cost of performing that duty.  Those details must also be spelled out clearly in the lease including the specific dollar cost.


It is critical that you understand the local laws and ordinances regarding the details of snow removal and enumerate the specific responsibilities of safely performing that responsibility in your Landlord and Tenant Lease. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to enforce that lease.  Failure to enforce might result in you being held responsible.  If you need a property manager who is familiar with addressing these issues, let The Property Manager help you!

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