If you own a rental property in the state of Massachusetts, it is important to understand the laws on snow removal. There are certain Massachusetts landlord snow removal responsibilities and specific exceptions that may apply. The following is a quick overview.
CMR 410.452 covers “Safe Condition” of a premises. It states in part that:
The owner shall maintain all means of egress at all times in a safe, operable condition and shall keep all exterior stairways, fire escapes, egress balconies and bridges free of snow and ice, provided, however, in those instances where a dwelling has an independent means of egress, not shared with other occupants, and a written letting agreement so states, the occupant is responsible for maintaining free of snow and ice, the means of egress under his or her exclusive use and control.
Massachusetts Landlord Snow Removal Responsibilities
Basically, the law states that a landlord is responsible for clearing the snow from doorways and stairways. It does not specifically list sidewalks and driveways. However, landlords could be held liable for injuries resulting from the natural accumulation of snow and ice on a property. A recent court ruling states:
We now will apply to hazards arising from snow and ice the same obligation that a property owner owes to lawful visitors as to all other hazards: a duty to “act as a reasonable person under all of the circumstances including the likelihood of injury to others, the probable seriousness of such injuries, and the burden of reducing or avoiding the risk.
Since the wording in this ruling is vague and leaves room for interpretation, it may be best for landlords to proactively clear walkways and driveways to reduce the potential for injury and lawsuits.
Transfer of Responsibility
In buildings with “independent means of egress” under a particular tenant’s “exclusive use and control”, landlords can transfer the responsibility of snow removal to the tenants. The landlord and tenant must agree to this arrangement in writing. This only applies to doorways and stairways used by a single tenant, therefore, it would not apply to multi-family buildings where multiple tenants share the same egress.
Landlords Need to Know
As a landlord, it is important to understand Massachusetts landlord snow removal responsibilities and other applicable laws. It is also critical that you know what types of liability are covered by your homeowners insurance policy. If you are held responsible for something that takes place on your rental property and that particular liability is not covered by insurance, you will be personally financially responsible. Contact Eagle Trust Insurance to get a better understanding of your insurance policy and add-ons that may be worthwhile to purchase for investment properties.