Winter is officially here, and in many parts of the country (not mine, fortunately), that means freezing-cold temperatures and blankets of white, fluffy snow. It also means hours of shoveling, plowing, and de-icing. Or does it?
If you’re a rental property investor, you might be wondering this very question. Are you responsible for snow removal on your properties? Or does that fall on the tenant’s shoulders? Let’s take a look at this seasonal conundrum.
Who has to shovel the snow?
Snow removal responsibilities -- at least legally speaking -- will typically depend on where your property is located. Many states, cities, and municipalities have ordinances regarding it (especially up North) and, in some cases, there may even be deadlines for when you’re required to have the snow removed by (48 hours after a storm, for example).
You’ll need to check with your city’s housing department or a local real estate attorney for details on the exact laws in your area. Make sure to ask about laws for de-icing, storing the removed snow (there are usually height limits on snow mounds), and laying salt or sand after removal is over.
Additionally, the type of property you own may come into play. If it’s a single-family property, it’s more likely the tenant will need to handle snow removal duties, while on a multifamily one, particularly one with lots of shared sidewalks, parking lots, or common areas, that’s more often a landlord or property manager responsibility.
Making a snow removal plan
If you're responsible for snow removal on your property, have a plan in place, and discuss it with your tenants. You’ll want to set accurate expectations for when snow will be removed, as well as how it will be done.
Also, you don’t have to do it solo. Hiring a snow removal service might be a more efficient option, especially if you have several properties or are located far away from your investments.
In the event the tenant is responsible for snow removal, make sure it’s in your lease and that you instruct your renters on the proper protocols for doing so. At the end of the day, the property is your investment, and if they damage it when shoveling snow or de-icing (or failing to do these tasks in the first place), it could be you who pays for it in the long run.
The bottom line
Snow removal is a pain, but ultimately, it keeps your investment and tenants safe. Make sure you study up on the laws in your area and have a plan in place for how you’ll handle the next snowstorm. And when in doubt, hire a pro. Violating city ordinances could result in a costly fine.