Snow Clearing Ordinances

Blizzard BostonBoston, 2006. Image CC-BY by Beau Wade.

As landlords we must clear the snow from our properties. If we have an agreement with a tenant that calls for the tenant to remove the snow, that’s fine. But if the tenant fails to comply, you as the landlord are on the hook for the city’s impending fines.

Here are some representative ordinances, with Worcester (last year, among the snowiest cities in the country) representing the most stringent.

Worcester

  • Remove snow within 10 hrs of the end of the storm.
  • Paths must be at least four (4) feet wide for wheelchairs.
  • Fines are $75/day.
  • Read the ordinance.

Shrewsbury (near Worcester)

  • No ordinances governing removal (confirmed by Highway Dept), except:
  • Do not shovel snow into the street.
  • No throwing snowballs across the street (true fact, this is unlawful!)
  • Read their bylaws to see that snow removal was repealed, except for snowballs.

Springfield

  • Landlord or tenant must clear sidewalks within 24 hours.
  • Cannot shovel into street.
  • Read the code

Boston

  • Must clear sidewalks within three hours of snow fall.
  • Paths must be 42 inches wide.
  • Snow can’t be shoveled into the street.
  • Fines vary from $50 to $200 per day.
  • Read the regulations (search for “chapter xvi” and then scroll down to “16-12.16”)

Cambridge

  • Must clear sidewalks within 12 hours of snow fall, or within 6 hours of icing.
  • Must clear ALL snow. (Really? To where? Thanks, Cambridge.)
  • Fines are a flat $50 per day.
  • Read the regulations (search for “snow” or browse to 12.16.110)

Somerville

  • Must clear sidewalks by 10pm (if snow stops during the day) or 10am (if during the night)
  • Must clear sidewalks to 42″ wide
  • Fines are $50 to $200 per day
  • Read the regulations

If you live in another community, odds are good that the rules are basically the same as Worcester’s. You probably must clear your sidewalks in timely fashion.

Please note: “42 inches wide” is wheelchair navigation width and can be enforced by the state on behalf of a disabled person even if your municipality does not specify so much width.

Note: if a city plow fills in what you cleared, you may still be on the hook to re-clear it. File a complaint with the city but do not leave it impassable. We know at least one landlord who accumulated a heap of fines to go with his snow pile. He should have photographed it, cleared it, and then complained to the city.

3 Responses to Snow Clearing Ordinances

  1. Galina says:

    the question for the city of Boston – in a triple decker two units are tenanted with the lease, specifically stating that tenants are responsible for the clearing and removal of the snow and the third unit is tenants at will.

    The snow clearing in this case is still the first two units tenant’s responsibility?

    Or the landlord has to clear it despite the tenants are obligated under the lease?

    • Doug Quattrochi says:

      Galina,

      I am not an attorney but I believe it’s a matter of recourse. If the sidewalk isn’t cleared, the city will first cite the landlord. The landlord can then seek to enforce the lease obligations with his or her tenants in court. Since court action is costly and uncertain, this reduces our advice to “landlords are responsible.” A tenant with a lease agreement to clear the snow could conceivably be evicted “for cause” if they fail to clear it, but the landlord will still be the one fined by the city.

      To my knowledge, it doesn’t matter whether the rental agreement with a snow removal clause is a lease or a tenancy-at-will.

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