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Uh-oh…snow?

January 3, 2014 , , , , , , , ,

Multi family snow removalCourtesy of the MAR Legal Hotline…

Q. My client owns a multi-family and insists that he has no responsibility for removal of snow except for clearing the sidewalks as required by municipal ordinance. Is he correct?
A. No. The landlord is responsible for removing snow on the property. Many landlords attempt to pass this responsibility onto their tenants by writing a provision into their leases; however, this practice may not protect the landlord from liability.
The Massachusetts Sanitary Code provides that the “owner shall maintain all means of egress in a safe, operable condition” and that all “exterior stairways, fire escapes, and egress balcony, shall be kept free of snow and ice.” Massachusetts law also provides that any provision in a rental agreement that waives the protections given by the Sanitary Code is void, as it is against public policy. Taken together it would appear that the landlord cannot assign this responsibility in a lease. However, the law remains unclear.
It should also be noted that the Sanitary Code does not cover driveways or sidewalks; therefore, logic would suggest these could be assigned into a lease. If a landlord decides to form a side agreement with a tenant to compensate them for snow and ice removal they should carry workers’ compensation insurance as these tenants could be classified as employees of the landlord. Again, clients that have specific questions regarding their duty to clear snow should consult with their attorney.

Stay safe New England!

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