If you live or own property in Massachusetts, it’s important to know the laws when it comes to snow and ice removal. You may have legal responsibilities when it comes to snow and ice removal whether you’re a tenant, a landlord, a homeowner or commercial property or business.
While there are state-wide snow and ice removal laws and requirements, there are also ordinances and rules specific to the City of Boston, Chelsea, Revere, Everett, Lynn and so on.
About a decade ago there was a big shift in Massachusetts snow and ice removal laws. This is particularly important, because the past 15 years have also been the snowiest years in all of Massachusetts’ history.
For more than 100 years, Massachusetts allowed property owners to have a “natural” accumulation of snow and ice and to avoid liability. This is no longer the case.
All Massachusetts property owners now have a legal duty to remove all snow, ice, sleet and slush from their property. If someone is injured in a slip and fall accident on your property because you neglected to remove your ice or snow, you could be responsible for their injuries. This applies to property owners of businesses, personal homes, and even to landlords for their rental properties.
In addition to the state-wide winter safety laws, many cities and towns also have additional and more specific rules about snow and ice removal. The rules, usually called ordinances, often state how quickly you need to clear the ice and snow from the walking surfaces of your property. The general Massachusetts snow and ice removal laws allow cities and towns to determine when and how snow and ice need to be removed and the penalties for not complying.
There are also rules about HOW you can remove snow and ice. You are not allowed to shovel any snow, ice, or slush from your driveway or sidewalk into the street even if a city plow will go over the area. As a general rule, removal of ice and snow means that sidewalks must be cleared to the bare pavement whenever possible.
- You could face fines for failing to follow your city’s snow and ice removal ordinances. Fines may vary depending on if you own a residential property, a commercial property, or if it’s a single-family home or a multi-unit building such as an apartment complex. Fines will also vary depending on the amount of snow that needs to be removed.
- In addition to fines for failing to remove snow and ice, you can also be fined for improperly removing snow and ice by shoveling into the street or blocking a curb.
- Boston usually strictly enforces these rules and doesn’t make any exceptions regardless of your situation. If you’re going out of town, be sure to make arrangements so you’re not fined or liable for any injuries while you’re away.
- Whether a private landowner, a business, or a landlord, you could be held legally responsible for someone’s injuries if they slip and fall on ice or snow on your property. This could mean you’re responsible to the injured person for damages including medical bills, lost work time, and physical or emotional pain and suffering.
- It depends on the city and the local ordinances. For example, in Boston, the city’s policy only allows businesses 3 hours to remove all snow and ice, but residents get up to 6 hours to remove all snow and ice. If it snows overnight, then usually the time is extended to within 3 or 6 hours post sunrise.
- Sometimes there are exceptions if the snow falls during daylight hours or overnight.
All property owners have a general duty to use reasonable effort to make sure that their property is safe for visitors. This includes a duty to not allow snow and ice to accumulate. The more likely someone is to be injured and the more serious the injury is likely to be, the more careful a homeowner must be. Single-family homeowners in Boston should all clear walkways, driveways, and entrances to their homes.
If you live in an area with a lot of foot traffic, for example, you may have an even higher standard of care in keeping your property safe because there are more potential injury victims encountering your property each day.
If someone slips and falls on snow or ice at your home and is injured, usually your homeowners' insurance policy will extend coverage to provide the injured person with financial compensation should you be found at fault. It’s always a good idea to ask your insurance agent about your coverage options and if they will cover slip and fall injuries on your property, whether it’s winter or not.
Simply put, landlords have the legal duty and responsibility to keep their property free from snow and ice. As a Boston property owner, you are responsible for plowing or shoveling your driveways, parking lots, and sidewalks. In addition to clearing the snow and ice, using sand and salt on any pathways and sidewalks is also highly recommended.
If your property is a multi-family or commercial property, it’s your responsibility as a landlord to ensure the property is safe for both tenants and any of their visitors. If you neglect your responsibility to clear ice and snow, you could be held responsible for any injuries related to slip and fall accidents whether the injured person is a tenant, a guest or a visitor.
Ultimately, as the property owner, you will be responsible if someone is injured in a slip and fall accident on the property. The best way to ensure that you are not liable in the event of an accident or violation of an ordinance is to take responsibility yourself to manage the snow and ice removal of all your properties. If a tenant is fined by the city or state, you would also ultimately be responsible for paying the fine.
Landlords in Massachusetts are required to keep all entrances and exits in a safe condition, including keeping exterior stairways, balconies, and bridges free of snow and ice. This isn’t a responsibility that a landlord can negotiate away.
The ONLY time you as a landlord can require a tenant to remove snow and ice in Massachusetts is when the tenant has an independent entrance and exit that is not shared with anyone other than the specific renter and the occupants of that home or unit. If the same entrance is shared by other occupants under a different lease, this exception doesn’t apply. Additionally, the exception ONLY applies to the entrance and exit pathways. A landlord is still responsible for any driveways or parking areas. Ultimately, if you attempt to require your tenant or renter to be responsible for snow and ice removal, you’re taking a big gamble and there are not many circumstances in which you’ll be successful in avoiding legal liability should someone injure themselves.
If you are a tenant who lives in a rented property, you have far less responsibility when it comes to snow and ice removal - but it doesn’t mean you have NO responsibility.
As stated above, some landlords try to pass the snow and ice removal duties to their tenants by including the duty as a provision in your lease agreement. Read your lease agreement carefully to find out if your landlord has tried to pass on this responsibility to clear your walkway, entrance, sidewalk, etc. It is very important to remember that if you live in a rental property with only one entrance or exit that is used exclusively by you and no other occupants of the building, then a landlord can legally require you to remove all snow and ice in compliance with city and state ordinances. If you live in a townhome or split home with a shared entrance, however, the landlord cannot successfully shift the responsibility of snow removal onto the renter.
Even though a landlord might ultimately be more legally responsible in the event of an injury or a fine, it’s still possible (although unlikely) that as a tenant you could be sued or fined if someone is injured if you failed to comply with your obligations under your lease. So it’s best practice to comply with your lease or before you sign a lease be sure the lease agreement language clearly reflects the owner’s responsibility to handle the snow and ice removal.
All property owners in Massachusetts are required to remove dangerous snow and ice from their properties, especially any public or private walkways, driveways, entrances, and sidewalks. Each municipality has varying rules on how snow and ice need to be removed and when. Below is some specific information about snow and ice removal rules for Chelsea, Winthrop, Lynn and Everett.
Chelsea, Massachusetts Snow and Ice Removal Rules
- The city of Chelsea mandates that all property owners need to remove any snow and ice within 24 hours to avoid a fine.
- This includes clearing any sidewalks sharing a boundary with your property.
- When shoveling, you cannot put snow or ice into the street.
- The Inspectional Services Department regularly and randomly does inspections throughout all of Chelsea and they can issue orders for owners to make immediate repairs and they can issue fines.
- If you are worried about a neglected property in your neighborhood, you can call the Inspectional Services Department at (617) 466-4131 or report it on the SeeClickFix Smart App to help the Chelsea City Hall address it quickly.
Winthrop, Massachusetts Snow and Ice Removal Rules
- In Winthrop, the city ordinance states that an owner or a tenant can be responsible for a failure to remove ice and snow from sidewalks.
- Any snow that falls between sunrise and sunset can only remain for up to 6 hours maximum. Ice also must be removed within 6 hours, or the sidewalk must be made even and covered with sand, salt, or ice melt to prevent slips and falls.
- Snow or ice removed from sidewalks cannot be put into the street or any public way.
- For each offense, an owner or tenant is liable for a $25 fine for a first-time offense, a $50 fine for a second offense and a $100 for a third or any additional offense.
- Winthrop also forbids throwing snow or snowballs unnecessarily in the streets, public areas, and the town square.
Everett, Massachusetts Snow and Ice Removal Rules
- The Everett ordinance says that an owner, occupant, or person in charge of a building or property can be held responsible for snow removal.
- All sidewalks along any property need to be clear of snow and ice by noon.
Lynn, Massachusetts Snow and Ice Removal Rules
- Lynn’s city snow removal ordinance gives responsibility to remove snow and ice to owners, managers, and tenants of any commercial building, estate, or residential building.
- All snow and ice on sidewalks along properties must be cleared within 3 hours of falling between sunrise and sunset.
- Purely residential buildings with fewer than 6 units have up to 10 hours between sunrise and sunset to clear any snow or ice.
- Any slush or even loose or granular or packed snow must be removed.
- The snow needs to be removed from the full width of the sidewalks.
- Snow cannot be left on curb cuts, intersections, crosswalks, or handicap ramps.
- No snow or ice can be dumped into the city streets. If anyone does dump snow or ice into the streets, they may be charged $100 for each offense.
The state of Massachusetts and individual cities take snow removal very seriously. If you don’t follow the laws and ordinances and someone gets hurt, you can face fines and a potential lawsuit. Be sure to check out the state’s snow and ice removal laws, as well as the ordinances for your particular city or town.
Were you Injured In a Slip and Fall on Ice or Snow? Spada Law Group offers FREE Winter Slip and Fall Consultations
If you were injured in a slip or fall accident in Boston, Lynn, Revere, Winthrop Everett or anywhere in Massachusetts due to snow or ice, give our office a call or send us a text. We’ve helped hundreds of people recover after slip and fall injuries in Massachusetts. We have the resources needed to hire investigators and expert witnesses if needed to successfully resolve these often difficult cases.