Who is responsible for clearing sidewalks after a snowstorm?


[Note: This article has recently been updated.]

As the East Coast continues to dig out from a recent blizzard, we asked landlord/tenant attorneys about responsibility for clearing snow and ice from sidewalks once the storm was over:

Who is responsible for snow and ice removal?

New York landlord/tenant attorney Steven Smollens advises tenants to check their lease agreements. If a tenant is responsible for snow and ice removal, it will be clearly stated in the lease agreement. If responsibility is not stated in the lease, the responsibility lands on the building owner or the property management company he employs to maintain the property.

If you are responsible, start shoveling

If you are responsible for removing snow and ice, know that you’re on the clock. City sanitation departments typically have rules around acceptable snow removal. In New York City, the Department of Sanitation requires snow to be removed within four hours after the snow has stopped falling, or by 11am the next morning if snow fell overnight.

“Every owner, lessee, tenant, occupant, or other person having charge of any lot or building must clean snow and/or ice from the sidewalk within 4 hours after the snow has stopped falling, or by 11:00 AM if the snow has stopped falling after 9:00 PM the previous evening.”

What if I slept in (Snow Day!) and forgot to shovel?

Fines: If snow is not removed promptly or adequately, the city can fine the owner of the building. Fines range from $100 – $150 for a first offense up to $350 for subsequent offenses. If the lease states that the tenant is responsible, the building owner may then turn around and sue the tenant for the fine amount.

Lawsuits: If someone slips and falls due to snow or ice left uncleared, the responsible party could be held liable for damages if the person files a personal injury lawsuit. Smollens advises any tenant responsible for maintaining sidewalks to discuss potential liability with an insurance agent.

For everyone’s safety, remove snow and ice as soon as possible. If it’s too difficult to remove completely, you should cover any remaining slippery spots with sand, salt or rocks.

Need more info? Find out how to file a disaster claim, and learn more about home insurance.