Avoid Fines & Liabilities: Know Your Snow Removal Responsibilities

Since 2010, all property owners (not just landlords and businesses) in Massachusetts are legally responsible to remove accumulated snow and ice from their properties including adjacent public sidewalks. As a homeowner, neglecting to clear your sidewalks and entryways could mean a non-compliance fine of at least $50, not to mention a lawsuit if someone slips and falls.

Cities and towns also have their own snow removal ordinances and by-laws that specify how soon snow and ice must be removed (6 hours after snow stops for Boston homeowners), as well as required widths of cleared pathways (usually a minimum of 42 inches wide to allow wheelchair passage.). Here are some links to local city snow removal requirements:

A few tips from The Massachusetts Real Estate Law Blog:

  • Shovel and treat snow and ice early and often. Even a thin coating of black ice can cause someone to slip and fall and seriously hurt themselves. If it re-freezes overnight into black ice and a visitor or delivery person slips on your walkway, you will remain liable.
  • Out-of-town? You must find someone to shovel your snow and de-ice walkways.
  • The standard Massachusetts homeowners’ insurance policy will have liability coverage for slip and falls on property. Make sure you have ample liability coverage of at least $500,000 to 1 Million. As with any insurance question, it’s best to contact your personal insurance agent.
  • Landlords have the primary responsibility for snow removal at a rental property. A landlord may require the tenant be responsible for snow and ice removal in a lease provisiononly where a dwelling has an independent means of egress, not shared with other occupants, and a written lease provides for same. This exception most likely only applies to entryways, not driveways or parking areas. Better though to remove snow and ice yourself or hire someone else because an injured guest will likely sue both the property owner and the tenant.
  • If you live on a corner, clear a path from the sidewalk to the street. If not precisely on the corner, as close to the corner as you can get.
  • Don’t try shoveling snow into the street. You will be fined if caught!
  • In some more residential towns, the local Department of Public Works will clear the sidewalks, but the default rule is that property owners are generally responsible for clearing their own sidewalks and driveways.

**Homeowners and Condominiums in Newton and Brookline: we now offer snow removal and de-icing! If you want to take advantage of this service, contact us now to set up a contract so we can keep your property snow-free as soon as winter arrives.

Snow removal, including driveway plowing and hand-shoveling, will only be billed on a “per visit” rate. You will receive a pre-inspection of your property to ensure hardscapes and gardens are kept safe during snow removal. Unlike salting, our ice melt is both pet-safe and less harmful to plants. With A Yard & A Half, you can trust that our year-round team of worker-owners are paid fairly and insured. As a “thank you”, any client that refers us to their neighbors will receive $50 off their first visit.