Snow cleaning responsibilities with tenants

10 Replies

Hello,

What is the best way to manage and communicate snow cleaning responsibilities to tenants. In my area it's not possible to hire a professional who would come and cleanup whenever it snows for a flat yearly fee, I usually hire someone randomly on a ad hoc basis and it always gets stressful especially when there is heavy snow and i just end up scurrying to find snow cleaners during a snow storm.

I will be moving OOS soon due to my job reasons so I am planning to manage my home  remotely at least for the first year and then decide to either sell or hire s PM if needed , however it will be impossible for me to share any snow cleaning responsibilities with my tenants so I am at a loss on how to handle snow cleaning so I just wanted to know if it's okay to shift some or all of the snow cleaning responsibilities to tenants? If its okay what is the best way to script it in the lease.

I will greatly appreciate  inputs here.

Thanks 

Hey @Peter Morgan ! This is definitely something that you can write into the lease. I'd recommend speaking with a lawyer to ensure your lease is compliant/enforceable, and discuss "hold harmless" clauses related to the lessee having sole responsibility of snow removal. Best of luck!

I think it is absolutely fine to expect tenants to take care of snow removal especially when snow removal companies are hard to come by or are unreliable. Here is an example of what I have included in a lease for a duplex where tenants are sharing snow removal responsibilities.

"Tenants are responsible for snow removal from their front door to the city sidewalk including any steps. Tenants must probably clear a path after snowfall. The path must be salted if ice forms or is expected. If a tenant lives in the downstairs unit, they are responsible for clearing the city sidewalk in front of the building."

I'm in corporate housing, so my clients/tenants are a bit different then "traditional", with that said, our leases include items tenants are responsible for, and snow removal is one of them. 

We do furnished units, so we leave shovel and salt on site. 

I do it because it's nearly impossible to have someone handle snow for 20 homes, when snow falls randomly and a tenant will always say we don't move fast enough. Secondly, liability. If we own the responsibility, they can blame us for slipping issues. 

Now I get they can blame us NO MATTER WHAT, but it's much easier to point the finger right back when it was their agreement to handle snow/ice themselves. I prefer that conversation in court at least. 

One time we had a older gentlemen who had 2 younger sons, but act like they couldn't figure this sow removal out. So we sent someone, after multiple conversations, and charged $200 to their account, which is also in lease. 

Anyway, the benefit of having tenants paying 6-7k monthly and are professionals linked to companies, are these type of matters are soooo much easier to work through then traditional clientele, as long as lease paperwork is tight.

I hate paying attorneys for advice, but when it comes to snow and ice on your property there are many different laws in every state. You need to research all the rental laws for your state and I know $300 to $500 is a lot of money we can use for nice things, but if you open your mail someday and it contains a large stack of paper for a lawsuit for a million dollars your heart will sink and you will spend then next few years with many sleepless nights as you vision your tenants owning everything you worked for. My description is no joke.

A few months ago, I was reading about the snow and ice laws in some state (I can't remember) and the laws were scary in regards to the amount of time a landlord has to remove snow and ice and I don't know if you can eliminate all your liability by making the tenant responsible because what if the tenant does not do what he is supposed to do in accordance with the law and the mailman slips and becomes a quadriplegic. Then, regardless of what the tenant signed, since you own the property you will be named in the lawsuit and then the burden to prove the tenant is liable will be on you. Since you probably have deeper pockets a jury is going to make you pay. You have have liability insurance for slip and fall, but it may not be enough and you will have to pay the difference.

I was never anxious to purchase properties where there is snow and ice, but I do own several in Idaho, Massachusetts, Colorado and  never did what I just preached. I never included a clause in a lease regarding snow and ice removal and never had a lawsuit, so far. So, don't let all the above cause nightmares at night.

They can take responsibility just like a home owner. Give them written notice with a deadline to return a signed copy acknowledging receipt. Tell them they are responsible for snow/ice removal and that you are not liable for injury to them or others if they fail to comply. Here's a website with a ton of different clauses. Find one you like and copy it.

https://www.lawinsider.com/cla...

@Peter Morgan it's all relative...our personal policy is to require snow removal directly by tenants for 1-3 unit properties...4 units and above would be managed by a snow removal company...same with lawn care. Our general opinion is that all costs should be passed back to the tenants. The one thing you need to pay attention to is reasonable accommodation...even if you have a lease term requiring snow removal...and you receive any communication that looks like a reasonable accommodation request that a tenant cannot perform the task...you will need to step in with a solution asasp...a solution can take on many forms...

You don't say if this is an apartment building or single family or duplex etc....but for the last two you simply write it into the lease as you would lawn care.  We do that and have no problems.  If an apartment you can hire someone or give discounted rent etc.  

@Peter Morgan

I am not sure what is in your lease / tenant at will agreements but hopefully its spelled out. 

They should know of the expectations an hopefully should not be a surprise when it snows overnight. 

Have a system in place would be very helpful! I do have a snow guy for massive storms but don't use for every storm 

There is only two options, make the tenant responsible or contract a company to do snow removal. 

I guarantee you can hire a company to do this, but they will charge you per snow fall most likely. Hiring a company is much better than finding random people, because you are actually on their schedule. One option is see if the company will contract for "only over 3 inches". Tell your tenant anything under 3" and they need to remove. This ensures that when there is a big snow fall, it will be cleared. 

Two other concerns:

1. If your city has requirements that snow must be removed from sidewalks in X hours after snow fall, make sure this is done. You can end up with fines.

2. Ice is another concern and is a liability hazard. The tenant may be responsible for putting down ice melt, but you are likely to be held liable if someone slips. Make sure whomever is responsible for putting down ice melt is reliable. 

One final note, having your tenant do snow removal is common for single family. For multifamily and short term rental, it is customary for the landlord to provide this service. Try to keep you service level in line with what is expected in the market and property type.