We’re in the middle of snow season. It hasn’t been a very snowy season in the Boston area, but when a storm hits, everyone gets a little frenzied.

As a real estate agent, I get asked about who is responsible to shovel: the landlord or the tenant? Since that’s a legal question, I depend on Attorney Richard Vetstein for accurate legal answers to general legal questions. He keeps an eye on legal changes that affect homeowners.

Here is his  Frequently Asked Questions about snow removal.

The summary is:

Yes, homeowners are responsible for clearing snow from the public walk in front of the house as well as the walkways to the house.

Yes, homeowners can require that their tenants do the snow removal. This does not remove the landlord from liability. The tenant can also have liability in that case.

How long after the storm is reasonable to expect clear walkways is up for interpretation. Some municipalities have time limits (and then start ticketing.)

Insurance companies in Massachusetts cover liability for snow-slip accidents.

Things I mention to my buyers, in the summer, that are really obvious today:

Corner lots have twice as much sidewalk to shovel.

Hills pose two problems. First it is easier to slip when shoveling downhill. Second it is easier for your car to slip in a hilly driveway or street.

Stairs pose a number of problems.

  1. Clearing snow from steps is slow work. So if you have a lot of steps, you have a lot of work.
  2. There are many ways that a step can become slippery and dangerous. If the steps are pitched downward they encourage the foot to slip down. Yet a little downward pitch is needed for draining water off the top. Too much is hazardous. If the step is higher in the front, water can drain toward the riser and become ice – slippery again.
  3. Handrails are a must when there are more than a couple of stairs.

You’ve been warned. Ready to shovel or snow-blow?