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Who is Responsible For Snow Removal at Rental Properties

One of the downsides to the higher rent rolls in the North East is the winter chore of having to deal with snow. More specifically, the removal of snow and ice management for rental properties. Given that we haven’t exactly narrowed down the science of long-range weather forecasts (see this article), we’re left to do the next best thing as property managers in Connecticut – find the best snow removal company at the most affordable rates and set aside financial reserves to battle the costs each winter. Some homeowners in (depending on location) have no responsibility for snow removal until somebody gets hurt on their property or it is deemed a danger – crazy, right? 

Who is Responsible for Snow Removal at a Rental Property

Your snow removal responsibility depends on what the snow removal clause stipulates in the lease agreement. The most common situation is that the property manager/landlord is responsible for providing snow removal for the tenants. Sometimes this means just having the driveway plowed or snow-blowed, although sometimes the property owner could also be responsible for snow removal of the sidewalk as well. Most towns and cities have a snow ordinance that requires certain accumulations of snow to be addressed quickly for sidewalks.
 
As much as we wish there was a simpler answer than “check your lease agreement”, there’s really not. There are so many different factors that went into your snow removal clause, that it’s impossible for us to know exactly what they are. 
 
For reference, these are some of the questions that had to be answered for your specific property before the snow removal clause was added to your lease:
  • Where is the property located?
  • Is the property an apartment complex, single-family home, duplex, or something else?
  • Are there any other rental agreements that can be referenced for nearby areas?
  • What is going to get snow removal? Walkways? Driveway? Parking lot?
  • Are there tenant parking restrictions when it snows?
  • Does the state, county, or city/town have snow ordinances/laws that need to be followed?
  • Do tenants have private or public walkways (private property has different rules than public property)?
  • What time frames have to be met?
  • What if someone suffers an injury or an accident?
  • What if snow removal not done in a reasonable time restricts people with disabilities?
  • Does the snow removal contractor carry commercial liability insurance?
  • Does the owner/PM need special insurance? 
  • Are tenants responsible for snow shoveling any areas?
  • Do different conditions warrant different response times?
  • Will plowed areas be salted as well?
  • Can any damage from snow occur after it is plowed into one spot (i.e. when melting)?
  • How much snow accumulation warrants snow removal? An inch of snow?

 What to look for in a snow removal & ice management contractor.

There are a few factors that you should consider when you explore your options for a snow removal company. Location, liability, rates, and company resources are all going to be critical elements that will ensure you have a successful winter season and happy tenants along the way. Be sure to read through the end of the article to learn about the number one factor people forget to consider.

Location

When you’re on the hunt for your next rental property in CT, location matters. The same applies to snow and ice management. As a property manager, our goal is to never be further than 30 minutes away from a property. Ideally, our snow and ice management contractor are within 15 minutes of the property. A bad snow and ice storm can cripple entire regions (We’re thinking of you Halloween storm of 2011) and if your contractor isn’t local they may not even be able to make it to your property. Bad winter storms can cause road closures, trees to come down, and active power lines on roads. Protect your y and your tenants by choosing a snow contractor that is near your property.

“Communicate clearly and effectively ahead of time what you are looking for from your snow removal contractor.”

-Val, Owner, AMD Landscape​

Liabilities

The slip and fall personal injury insurance claim world is a real one. Things get ejected out of snow blowers and into windows. Cars get hit with plows. Garages get bumped. If you’ve got a pro property management team in place, you should be all set. But if you don’t? Well, these are potential situations to discuss with your snow removal contractor, because they are full of liability. Who is responsible for what? Does your snow and ice management contractor carry insurance specifically for plowing and removing snow? What are the snow removal laws in Connecticut (or your state)? 

Request a COI (Certificate of Insurance) to view the coverage that they carry, and check if they need to be carrying a separate snow removal rider or policy. Insurance for snow removal is not cheap, and most do not carry it. If you are self-managing your rental property, the burden is on you to do your proper due diligence.

Rates

Some contractors will charge “per push”, some will charge “per season” and some will charge “per storm”. Rates for snow removal vary so drastically that you want to make sure to get a full understanding of what you are signing up for. Here at Connecticut Property Management, we prefer the “per storm” model, where we are being charged for snow that actually falls and is cleared. Per season contracts are a gamble as you typically pay one charge upfront (or monthly) for the season, independent of how much it actually snows. “Per push” is charged each time the contractor comes during the storm – but they could be plowing 2 inches or 6 inches – it’s still a gamble. The “per storm” model is the only scenario where you’re paying for what you actually use, at an incremental rate.

Company Resources

This is perhaps the number one area a typical consumer forgets to do their due diligence. Ask your contractor what their resources are. How many guys will be taking care of your property? What type of equipment will they be working with? Is it a beat up pick up truck from your grandfather’s prime years with 689,000 miles and 3 oil leaks, ready to let go at any moment, or is it a 5-10 year old truck that is reliable and just starting to get broken in? In the cold of the night when that truck is pushing snow for hours on end (the average contractor does 35-50 driveways per storm, per truck), it matters.

How to get the best results? Tell them what you need.​

Val from AMD Landscape tells us that the best way to get great results is to “communicate clearly and effectively ahead of time what you are looking for from your snow removal contractor. Give them as many specifics as possible and let them know of any special requests.” 

We wholeheartedly agree, Val!

Editor’s Note: As one of Connecticut’s premier property management companies, CTPM offers our vendor contact list completely free to the public. On that list you will find a handful of options for snow removal for rental properties. The list can be found here. Have a question? Contact us by using this link or feel free to email us!