Snow removal is one of the many services you must provide to your tenants in exchange for rent. Snow removal is also a necessary preventive measure to reduce risk and liability from slips and falls by not just your tenant, but their family, friends, and other visitors to the property. Prevention begins at the front door, and ends anywhere anyone could possibly walk, slip, or fall.
How and When to Protect Your Property
You should have your snow removed every day before you or your tenants go to work. Ice should be removed on an hourly basis if needed, especially if there is a rainstorm. If you use a contractor, frequent talks with them to determine the best times to visit your property are recommended.
Mark the date and time you did snow removal at your property. Also have your contractor do the same. If you are sued for a slip and fall, you can use the dates and times the property was serviced as a defense with your homeowner’s policy.
Some homeowners think that shoveling a path through the sidewalk is sufficient. Not only is it not sufficient, but also one snowstorm after snowstorm will make shoveling harder to complete. The snow not shoveled will be packed down, and heavy. Also, you will find it hard to find someplace to put the snow. A good path clearing should be at least 42 inches wide. Designate yard or driveway space in anticipation of a big winter of snow.
When there is a blizzard, it could snow day and night. You will want your snow removed so your tenants can go to work in the morning to avoid slip and fall suits. Also, research your city ordinances about required snow removal. In Boston, Massachusetts, landlords must remove the snow and slush from their sidewalks within 3 hours of a storm, or they will be fined every day of non-compliance.
Make sure the path to the trash cans or dumpster is cleared. If not, people will not put their trash there any more. When it snows, they will leave it at the nearest convenience to the trash cans.
If your commercial tenants have a lease stating they are responsible for their own snow removal, take a ride and see if they are doing it properly. If not, send them a warning letter, with a specific deadline for lease compliance.
Again, check your local ordinances on snow removal. Some cities charge a substantial fine for shoveling your snow on the street or your neighbor’s sidewalk area.
Hire Someone Else to Shovel the Snow
Your back is killing you, your legs feel like jelly, and your head is throbbing from a head cold. I think that is when it is time to call it a day. A shovel full of snow could average 7 lbs., not including the weight of the shovel. Add to that the exertion of throwing the snow over your head into the front yard.
Do you have any form of asthma or bronchitis? If there is one snowstorm after another, and you have a full time job, why are you out there shoveling snow and throwing down ice melt? Hire a company whose job it is to make sure your sidewalk and driveway is always clear when you leave for and come home from work. It’s a tax deductible property expense.
When you hire a snow removal company, the liability is on them. Make sure the company has liability insurance. Give clear directions as to when you want the snow removed from your property. Talk about what to do if it rains, and the sidewalk freezes over.
This is a high-risk time for people to fall on your property. Protect your investment by having someone remove snow and ice, regardless of when it snows or rains. You can still go by yourself and throw down some salt and sand.
If your back goes out, you are sick, or have to stay at work for overtime, having a contractor will save you the aggravation of doing it yourself. Also, your contractor can hire people to do this work even if one of his employees take sick.
If you live on the property, have your contractor shovel out your car, too. Again, why shovel and sand your property in your business suit before you have to go to work?
1. Fire Hydrants – A large snowstorm will cover what could be a life saving device. Remember to clear your fire hydrants, and instruct your snow contractor to do the same.
2. Wheelchair Accessibility, the Disabled and the Elderly – Winter is especially difficult on disabled people, the elderly and those who have to go to work using a wheel chair. Give them enough clearance to navigate your sidewalks with ease. Don’t just shovel a path – shovel the entire sidewalk. If your property is next to the end of the sidewalk, shovel the handicap ramp.
3. Plant Life – Do not plant flowers or shrubs where you plan to dump your snow for the winter. The sand and salt from the street mixed with the snow will kill your plants. I have found that bulb plants can survive. Yet, if you have an extended snow season that goes through April, your tulips may start to come up while snow and ice is still on the ground. Better to strategically plant your flowers and bulbs where you do not intend to dump snow and ice during the winter.
4. Rock Salt vs. Ice Melt – Rock salt, which contains water, will only melt snow and ice up to the freezing temperature. Rock salt also has a corrosive nature, and will wear out the cement on brick stairs. Ice melt is a bit more expensive, but is better long term as a preventive protection. Ice melt is better for indoor carpeting.
Use sand to give people some traction on icy areas. Sawdust is really messy when tracked inside your apartment.
5. Maintenance – Keep your snow blower tuned up after every snowstorm. It will increase its longevity. Do not store gasoline in your house.
6. Before shoveling or plowing, spray some WD-40 oil on the shovel or snow plow blades. It will help make the snow slip off the blades quickly, and prevent ice from forming on the blade and shovel.
Maintain your snow removal efforts in a preventive manner to reduce risks and liability. You will also find that consistent and considerate snow removal management will give your property a good reputation.