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by Ben Luxon November 29, 2019 3 min read

In snowy climates owning some snow removal equipment is practically a basic need. And in many communities, snow removal is mandatory.

You may even find if you check the local bylaws that you are required to keep public thoroughfares that cross our property free from snow. There is often a time limit too.

Whether this is a job you do yourself, hire out to maintenance personnel or pass onto the lease through your lease, someone has to do it, and they will need the gear to get it done.

As the property owner, you’re responsible for non-compliance with snow removal ordinances, so it’s best if you make sure snow removal equipment is available. Here’s a list of what you should have:

1. Snow shovels

We’ll start with the most basic. However, you may have noticed the plurality of the above title. One snow shovel probably isn’t going to cut it. You’ll need a large one and one or two smaller ones. These will help deal with various different types of snow. 

For example, the large one will work for powder but wetter snow is heavier meaning the smaller shovels will be far easier to manage. Keep them on the property so they are ready when the need arises.

landlord removing snow

2. Scraper

When there’s snow, there is inevitably going to be ice, especially on areas where people walk as they compress the snow down. The scraper itself is usually nothing more elaborate than a flat piece of metal with a slight edge. A spade shovel will do the job in a pinch, but a scraper is lighter and easier to use. Save the spade for digging and spend $30 on a scraper.

3. Snow broom

When there is just a light dusting, it’s easier just to sweep the snow off the path. A snow broom has stiffer bristles and is designed for outdoor use. Some snow brooms come with a scraper installed on the other end of the long handle.

4. Salt or sand spreader

To prevent ice forming and to help keep surfaces clear in light snow or sleet cover the pathways and thoroughfares with deicing salts. Doing this will help you keep your paths clear of dangerous ice that may form and could end up being a lawsuit.

5. Snowblower

A final item on our list is a snowblower. However, we classify this one as a maybe. They make light work of large areas after a big powdery dump. And to be honest they’re quite fun. However, they are at best ineffective against slush, they aren’t cheap and they can be a pain to get started.

If you have a tenant or maintenance staffer who is savvy about small engines and a warm, dry storage place, a snowblower can be a good investment. Otherwise, consider joining a neighborhood snowblower pool, or stick to manual snow removal equipment.

Landlord Snow removal

Snow removal liability can be confusing

Many communities in the north of the US have pretty specific regulations when it comes to snow removal. However, in climates where snow is less common the rules might not be so clear. For example, Jonesboro, Arkansas, has no law regarding snow removal, so when the town got a 2-inch accumulation in 2013, some landlords let the snow melt rather than clear it. The result was general pandemonium in the town for a week.

One way to avoid liability and keep the community safe is to pass the responsibility to tenants by including a snow removal clause in the lease. Tenants are often in a better position to assess the situation after a snowfall than landlords. In multi-family dwellings or large apartment complexes, it’s probably a better idea to contract snow removal with a third party. Either option is better than doing nothing.

Ben Luxon

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