Courtesy of Seth Eller
Property managers and landlords need to know what local laws require for snow and ice removal.

Why Landlords and Property Managers Should Understand Snow Removal Laws

Jan. 3, 2024
Your city or county most likely has a snow removal law. Here’s what these laws typically include and what you need to know about them.

In 2016, a Chicago resident slipped on the public sidewalk of a condominium building. It hadn’t snowed in 11 days and the property manager was diligent to clear all the snow promptly. The slip happened due to the property's downspouts enabling drainage that led to ice buildup on the sidewalk.

The Chicago resident argued that the property manager had been negligent. The property management company believed they were excused from liability due to the broad immunity offered by the Illinois Snow & Removal Act. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Chicago resident, stating that there's no protection from liability when a property manager has failed to address hazardous conditions that might result in ice buildup on the sidewalk.

Long story short, it’s important for property managers and landlords to know exactly what the law requires for snow and ice removal in their specific city.

Clearing Snow and Ice

Most states do not have snow removal laws, but cities and counties do. Those responsible for buildings or lots adjacent to public areas typically must adhere to guidelines like the following:

1. Timely Removal: Snow and ice that accumulates during the day should be cleared on the same day. Overnight accumulation will need to be removed by the morning of the following day. In New York City, for instance, they say it must be removed within four hours after the snow ceases to fall.

2. Path Clearance: A clear path of at least 5 feet in width should be created on the sidewalk, including any intersecting ramps, is required in the city of Chicago.

3. Preventing Hazards: In cases where snow is too hardened to remove without damaging the pavement, sand, abrasive material or specialized products designed to reduce slipping hazards should be used. Subsequently, the sidewalk must be thoroughly cleaned at the earliest weather-permitting opportunity.

4. Snow Disposal: It's prohibited to deposit snow or ice removed from surface parking lots of multiple dwelling unit buildings or townhouse developments onto public ways. Proper storage that doesn't obstruct public access is mandatory. If storage isn't feasible, private snow and ice removal services must be contracted. Do not push snow onto the street, paths, crosswalks, bus stops or alleys, and be sure to avoid burying a fire hydrant.

Consequences of Non-compliance

Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines ranging from $50 to $500 for each offense. Each day of non-compliance constitutes a separate offense, potentially escalating the penalties.

It is also important to note that during certain winter months, parking may be banned in the early mornings. Signage will be permanently posted on affected streets and violators can be towed and face a towing fee, a ticket and a storage fee per day.

In addition to this there is usually a separate snow-related parking ban for when there is at least 2 inches of snow on the street. Regardless of the time of day or calendar date, cars parked may receive a ticket or be towed to facilitate snow clearing operations.

Liability for Civil Damages

The law also includes provisions to protect individuals involved in snow removal from civil damages arising due to their acts or omissions during removal. However, this protection does not extend to willful misconduct or violations of other relevant municipal codes.

Key Takeaways

1. Timely Snow Removal: Adhere to the specified timeframes for snow and ice clearance.

2. Path Safety: Ensure a clear path at least 5 feet wide on sidewalks.

3. Proper Disposal: Avoid depositing removed snow onto public ways.

4. Avoid Penalties: Failure to comply can result in significant fines.

As responsible stakeholders, landlords and property managers should familiarize themselves with the regulations of their city to uphold safety standards and avoid legal consequences. Meticulous care should be taken, even to the extent of inspecting the drainage.

If snow and ice removal is performed by a third party, make sure they are reputable and trustworthy. By fulfilling their obligations promptly and responsibly, they contribute to creating safer environments for all residents and pedestrians during the winter.

About the Author

Tom Marsan

Tom Marsan is a certified snow professional who has been in the landscaping and snow removal industry for about two decades. He is an active member of ILCA and SIMA and is currently the General Manager at Beverly Companies in Chicagoland.

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