Last week, unless you lived in Southern California, odds are you got hit with some interesting weather. As it happens, my family and I were in Saint Louis when the first of the storms hit. My mother’s Saint Louis apartment complex was very quickly blanketed in just over knee-deep snow. We got 15 inches of the fluffy white stuff and the entire city was nearly shut down. It was a Snowpocalypse that they are still dealing with.
Her apartment complex’s property management was impressive in how quickly they responded. By noon the next day, hallway like walk ways were cleared, the parking lot was free of ice, and even though the snow continued to come down, the residents had safe passage on the property.
Now, not only was that a nice thing to do, it was also the legally responsible thing to do.
We’ve got about 62 days left until Spring. (Fortunately!) We’ve covered winterizing your property to help protect it. Here is the break down of the how and whys of protecting your tenants and your own assets if you happen to live in an area where snow and ice can be problematic.
If someone slips or falls on any property, whether that’s someone’s home, a store, a public sidewalk, or an apartment complex: the owner of that property could be held liable for not only that person’s injuries, but potentially missed pay, pain and suffering, and a host of other financial damages. This is what’s known as premises liability.
What that means is that you are responsible for injuries that happen when someone’s on your property. If you do happen to have a property management firm handling it, you are still responsible even if that firm or property manager should have handled it and did not.
- Understand that different cities and counties may have different requirements for sidewalk shoveling and ice abatement. For instance, in Saint Louis, as with most Missouri cities, property owners are required to clear their sidewalks “within a reasonable amount of time”. Most cities in the US have similar requirements. Make sure you know yours. The rules are often different for private single family residences and multifamily, so also be sure you know what applies to your properties.
- Make sure to shovel all of the sidewalks on each side of your property, the full width, down to the pavement.
- Remove the ice. After you’ve done this, you can use sand, specialized ice abatement chemicals, kitty litter, or salt to prevent slips.
- Don’t pile the snow in the street, or even in a nearby alley. Though this again varies, it’s usually illegal to do that. Instead, pile it in the yard or if need be, the lawn portion of a boulevard.
- If your property happens to be on a corner, make sure that the curb cuts are clear at corners and crosswalks.
You need to start snow and ice removal as early as possible. Though it may continue to snow, shoveling fresh snow is usually much easier than already packed snow, and that packed snow can become very slick if any melting occurs. If you do get the top layer so that sunshine can melt the bottom, be sure that you salt it so that ice will not form or refreeze.