Being a board member, manager, or maintenance staff member for a building or HOA obviously comes with numerous responsibilities. Chief among those is being ready and able to deal with risks, issues and hazards that pose potential threats to the safety of the property, its inhabitants and visitors. This is especially true in the winter months, when snow and ice coat sidewalks, curbs and other structures that can alter the appearance of a building and cause costly wear-and-tear on structures, landscaping elements, and paved surfaces. Removing snow and ice in a thorough, timely manner is an administrative obligation that is absolutely non-negotiable. It’s also cost-effective; putting off or neglecting snow and ice control can lead to slip-and-fall injuries, and that means lawsuits. Even beyond that, depending on the jurisdiction in which your building sits, there may be numerous other expensive legal implications for not carrying out the task of snow and ice removal.
Snowledge is Power
It’s extremely important for both associations and contractors to know what their responsibilities are when it comes to removing snow and ice on their properties and the properties they’re hired to maintain.
First, it’s crucial to know whether you could be held partly – or solely – responsible if precipitation and ice aren’t promptly and adequately addressed. Clear and well-defined roles are a great place to start. For example, whose task is it to physically go out and shovel snow, or sprinkle ice-melt on your building or association’s paved surfaces? The superintendent? The porter? A board member? How often should he or she venture out to re-shovel or re-sprinkle? Does this person know where the property lines are? Do they have adequate tools and equipment to get the job done right? Do they know how to use them properly?
Next, familiarize yourself with local laws concerning not only what exactly it is you are responsible for, but also the consequences for failure to meet those obligations. Even if you’ve been managing properties for decades, or have been on your board since the Carter administration, the fact is that laws can and do change. So before the first flakes fall, it’s worthwhile to refamiliarize yourself with your state and local ordinances and rules concerning snow removal and liability. Relatively snow-free states like Alabama, Hawaii and South Carolina don’t have laws that govern the removal of snow, for obvious reasons – but numerous other states do, and they cover everything from where snow should be removed from, to how and when it should be removed.
Among the states that have to deal with annual snowfall, there’s a fair amount in common between them when it comes to the process of management and removal of that snow. While there definitely are variations among states – and even among municipalities – it can be said that the sidewalks, driveways and other areas with regular foot traffic are common areas that usually fall under the responsibilities delegated to the association and its manager.