Who’s Responsible for Shoveling and De-Icing: You or Your Landlord?

Properly heating your apartment is just one part of staying comfortable and safe during the winter. It’s also important that all entryways into your apartment building and the sidewalk in front of it remain clear of snow and ice so that people don’t slip and injure themselves on your property. Depending on what your lease says, you might even be liable if someone injures themselves due to slipping on snow or ice around your apartment building. You thus might be tempted to take care of shoveling or de-icing as soon as you can, but your landlord might be in charge of that. Here’s how to know whether the responsibility for shoveling and de-icing falls to you or your landlord.

Start by reading your lease

There’s no hard and fast rule stating whether landlords or tenants are responsible for shoveling and de-icing. Instead, the contents of your lease usually determine with whom this responsibility lies. If your lease says that tenants are responsible for clearing snow and ice from the staircase into your apartment building and the sidewalk in front of it, then break out your gloves, shovel, ice pick, salt, and other tools and get to work.

What if my lease doesn’t clearly dictate responsibility?

Although many leases will contain explicit guidance regarding snow cleanup, not all will. If you can’t find any language that outlines whether the responsibility for shoveling and de-icing falls to you or your landlord, take the following steps.

Contact your landlord

Get in touch with your landlord to determine who will clear the pile-up of snow and ice from the latest storm. If you’re deeply concerned that you might have an abundance of slipping hazards around your building, feel free to take it upon yourself (and ask neighbors for help, if possible) in this one instance to clear the snow and ice, but make sure you know for certain with whom the responsibility lies next time. 

Check state laws

If you can’t get in touch with your landlord, check state laws to determine with whom the responsibility for shoveling and de-icing your apartment building lies. No two states have exactly the same laws regarding snow and ice removal, and in some states, the responsibility varies based on the type of apartment building. Even if your lease does state with whom the responsibility lies, state laws may contradict your lease, so it’s good to look into this anyway. Contact your landlord or state government office if you find any discrepancies.

Check local ordinances

In addition to state laws, individual municipalities and cities may have shoveling and de-icing regulations of their own. These laws, known as local ordinances, may explicitly state whether the responsibility for shoveling and de-icing falls to you or your landlord. They may also offer guidance on how to hold your landlord accountable if they aren’t performing the necessary work as these ordinances dictate. 

Generally speaking, local ordinances will fall in line with what you find when you look into state laws. Local ordinances, though, may spell out obligations in greater detail and assign additional responsibilities to you or your landlord. Looking through ordinances, state laws, and your lease is thus a surefire way to be certain with whom the responsibility for shoveling and de-icing falls.

What tips do you have for clearing snow and ice? Share them in the comments!

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