In NY, snow is a way of life at least six months out of the year. The people of NY have learned to drive in snow, walk in snow, and even have fun with the snow that is on the ground. However, when you own a building with tenants, snow adds a new layer of responsibility that you must be accountable for.
When it comes to property safety precautions, the property owner is ultimately responsible, but snow removal can be one of the tenant responsibilities if it is outlined properly in the lease.
The Snow Removal Parameters Are Specific
When it comes to snow removal on the streets and sidewalks of NYC, the rules are very specific. If snow falls on your property between 7:00 a.m. and 4:49 p.m., then it must be shoveled by 8:49 p.m. that night. If snow falls on your property between 5:00 p.m. and 8:59 p.m., then the property owner has 14 hours to remove the snow. It is not clear if the NYC government somehow tags snowflakes based on when they fall, but you can safely assume that such strict guidelines are enforced on a regular basis.
As for where the snow is to be placed, the city has very specific guidelines for that as well. Snow cannot be shoveled into the city streets, and a property owner cannot push snow from their property onto neighboring crosswalks. The rules are in black and white when it comes to snow removal, but the responsibility of removing snow is not so well-defined.
When Do Tenant Responsibilities Include Snow Removal?
It should be clearly stated that the owner or manager of a rental property is always responsible for removing snow from their walks and driveways, according to city ordinances. But, property owners can always work out some sort of arrangement with tenants to help relieve some of the stress that can come with snow removal.
For large apartment complexes and apartment buildings with multiple units, the best approach is for the property owner or manager to handle snow removal on their own. If you try to get multiple tenants involved, then you are only asking for problems. If you try to push the job onto one tenant, then you are putting too much responsibility into the hands of one person. The manager or owner should do the job themselves, or contract out to a property management company to get the job done.
Property owners who rent out single-family dwellings have a bit more flexibility than those who own large complexes. Property owners can present potential tenants with a monthly rental price that includes the property owner removing the snow, or the property owner can offer a discount to the tenant if the tenant removes the snow.
If you do offer your tenant the opportunity to have a reduced rent for removing snow, then it is important to outline exactly what those responsibilities entail in the lease. You must tell the tenant when the snow is to be removed, where the snow is to be placed, and how wide the paths must be when the job is done. If you are not specific about what needs to be done, then you are at the mercy of the tenant and you could be facing fines for an improperly managed property.
Snow removal can be tedious, difficult and stressful, but if you live in NY, then shoveling snow is the way things are for a big part of the year. Property owners need to examine snow removal laws carefully, and then make good decisions on whether or not it is a smart idea to offer tenants a discount for getting involved in the snow removal process.