Massachusetts Snow & Ice Removal Laws
Hey, everyone. Anthony Riccio here, founding attorney of Riccio Law, a Massachusetts personal injury and the criminal defense law firm with offices in Quincy and Attleboro, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts regarding snow and ice removal law
With winter here and the recent snowstorm we had in Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago, I figured I would take a couple of minutes to talk about the laws in Massachusetts regarding snow and ice removal; specifically, the obligations imposed upon property owners in Massachusetts with respect to snow and ice removal. Back in 2010, the laws in Massachusetts changed regarding the obligations of property owners with respect to snow and ice removal. As a result of the change in the law, all property owners in Massachusetts essentially are required to make all reasonable efforts to assure that their property is safe or clear of any dangers for any lawful visitors to their property. With respect to snow and ice accumulation, essentially, the law requires that property owners make all reasonable efforts to clear their property of any of the dangers associated with snow or ice accumulation.
Now, depending on the type of property it is, as well as where the property is located in Massachusetts, the obligations of the property owner may vary a little bit, specifically with respect to how quickly they’re required to remove the snow or ice from their property. But as a general rule, all property owners in Massachusetts are required to make all reasonable efforts to remove snow and ice accumulation on their property so the property is safe to any and all lawful visitors.
Now, with respect to single-family homes, residential homes, property owners are obligated or required to remove snow and ice accumulation on their property to assure that any lawful visitor to their property is safe and isn’t posed with any dangers, with respect to snow or ice removal. As a property owner, a homeowner of a single-family home, you need to make sure any walkways on your property, pathways, as well as your driveway are clear of snow and ice accumulation. Suppose any part of your property abuts a sidewalk or connects to a sidewalk. In that case, you are obligated or required to remove any snow or ice accumulation on that portion of the sidewalk.
Now, I would say, depending on where your property is, where your home is, you may want to look at the town bylaws and see if there’s a specific time requirement. For example, homeowners in Boston are required to remove snow and ice accumulation within six hours of the accumulation. If you are a homeowner of a single-family property in Massachusetts, know that you do have to make all reasonable efforts to remove any snow and ice accumulation on your property. Again, that being on driveways, walkways, pathways, and any portion of a sidewalk that abuts your property.
Now, with respect to multifamily properties, owners of those properties, landlords, they are also required to make all reasonable efforts to remove any snow and ice accumulation on the property. That being on driveways, a parking lot, any pathways to and from the property. Sometimes, sometimes landlords or property owners on leases with their tenants try to shift the tenant’s obligation. Now, there are certain instances where that is allowed. If, say, your unit on a property has its own private pathway or walkway that is only to enter into your unit specifically, a lease could allow the tenant to be responsible for removing snow or ice for that specific portion of their unit only. However, in the end, the law is pretty clear that property owners are responsible for snow and ice removal, so I would advise against trying to shift that obligation on a tenant because, in the end, the legal obligation is on the property owner.
As the property owner of a multifamily property, you should take the approach that you are responsible for snow and ice removal on all areas of the property, even if there is a portion of the specific or private property to a particular tenant within a unit. Again, while a lease may allow for that and is enforceable in a sense, the legal obligation of snow and ice removal would still fall on the property owner, the landlord of that multifamily property. So just keep that in mind.
Now, with respect to commercial properties, the law’s essentially the same. They have to make all reasonable efforts to make sure their property is safe from any dangers with respect to snow and ice accumulation. That goes to their parking lot, if their business front is on a sidewalk or abuts a sidewalk, they’re responsible for the sidewalk in front of their property. Property owners of commercial properties, business owners need to make all reasonable efforts to make sure that their employees or visitors to their business aren’t posed with any dangers based on snow and ice accumulation.
Now, for example, in Boston, I may have mentioned this earlier, a property owner of a home or a residence is required to remove snow and ice accumulation within six hours, whereas a commercial property owner in Boston has only three hours to remove snow and ice accumulation. While the law is generally the same with respect to all property owners in Massachusetts, whether it’s residential or commercial, basically putting the obligation or the legal liability on the property owner to remove snow and ice accumulation, keep in mind that depending on what type of property you own and what city or town in Massachusetts it’s in, the requirements maybe a little bit different from town to town, city to city. If you are a property owner in Massachusetts, you should probably check the laws in that town or city where your property is regarding snow or ice removal and ensure that you are abiding by those laws.
If you are a tenant or at a multifamily property or a visitor to a home or business and you slipped and fell and injured yourself as a result of snow or ice accumulation, feel free to contact my office and I’d be happy to give a free evaluation on the case and answer any questions you may have.