Who Needs to Shovel that Walkway? Landlord Responsibility for Pathway Maintenance

Saving Yourself from Slip, Trip, and Fall Lawsuits

With colder weather approaching, if you are a Massachusetts residential landlord, it pays to review your responsibilities for clearing snow and other weather-related debris from rental properties.

Contrary to what you may assume, Massachusetts law does not specifically assign responsibility for shoveling snow out of walkways or driveways. However, in defining “Safe Condition” for rental premises, CMR 410. 452 declares:

“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”

While the focus of this statute is access to doors and other escape routes, legal precedent has also established that landlords are responsible for injuries caused by snow and ice on their property when that snow or ice could reasonably be considered a known risk to the life and limb of others.

In light of this, if you are already responsible for clearing away snow from doors, it pays to be proactive. Clearing snow and salting for ice will not only be an investment in your property by making it more appealing to prospective and current tenants, but it will potentially save you tens of thousands in legal fees in a personal injury case.

This same proactive standard may well be applied to other colder-weather hazards. Wet leaves on a walkway can also lead to trips, slips, and falls. Downed branches from high winds can force people off of safe paths or cause injuries directly.

The Properties Covered

CRM 410. 452 is aimed at multifamily residential property landlords, however. The statute does transfer the responsibility for snow removal to tenants when:

“…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.”

In short, if a property has a private entrance (such as a single-family home or a condominium) and the lease stipulates in writing the tenant’s responsibility for clearing snow and ice, the landlord is not responsible for the shoveling and plowing.

Concerned About Your Liability?

If you are a landlord facing a slip, trip, and fall personal injury case, or otherwise concerned with how to reduce your liability in the event of such a suit, call our experienced real estate law team today. For years, we have helped landlords protect their livelihoods and investments.

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