Friday, October 18, 2013

Property Managers: Winter is Coming!

According to an article by the Associated Press, back in 2010, the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling eliminated a state law distinction between "natural" and "unnatural" accumulations of snow ice. This ruling is important because now property owners can be held liable for any snow-related accidents whether the snow was caused naturally or unnaturally. The article states that before the ruling, snow-related injuries that occurred due to non-removal of naturally-accumulated snow cannot hold the property owner liable. The main reasoning behind this ruling is that property owners have some sort of responsibility of keeping the property safe despite the cause. This is what Justice Ralph Grant had to say about the ruling:
"We now will apply to hazards arising from snow and ice the same obligation that a property owner owes to lawful visitors as to all other hazards: a duty to act as a reasonable person under all of the circumstances including the likelihood of injury to others, the probable seriousness of such injuries, and the burden of reducing or avoiding the risk."
Here are some do's and don't from the City of Boston:


  • Remove snow, slush, and ice from sidewalks and curb ramps abutting your property within 3 hours of snowfall ending (or 3 hours from sunrise if snow falls overnight) as required by law. Violators will be fined.
  • Remove snow, slush, and ice from the full paved width of the sidewalk and curb ramp or a minimum path of 42 inches wide. Narrow paths encumber carriages and wheelchairs, and properly cleared pathways ensure flow and safety of pedestrian traffic.
  • Shovel or plow snow into the street: Violators caught shoveling snow from private property into the street will be fined.
  • Leave snow or ice on stairways or fire escapes. All common means of egress must be clear.
For more detailed information, click here.

What this ruling ultimately results in is probable increase in lawsuits relating to snow-related injuries for property owners. It would be wise for property owners to get familiar with Massachusetts' snow removal laws and do their best to create a safer environment during the winter season. What do you think about property owners' duty to create a reasonably safer environment around their area? Should they be held liable?

As always is you have any questions regarding property management, make sure to visit our website and utilize our client resources.

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