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Landlords & Tenants: Who’s Responsible for Snow Removal?

Federal Way Tenant Shoveling SnowIf you own a rental property somewhere with snowy winters, you may be questioning how to address the responsibility of snow removal. Regulations about snow removal for Federal Way rental property owners are actually varied and sometimes complex. Because of this, it’s advisable to assign snow removal responsibilities accordingly well in advance for the first flakes fall. But who should be doing it – you or your tenant?  That depends on several aspects, which we examine more closely below.

Local Ordinance

First, to clearly understand your snow removal responsibilities, look up your local ordinance. In many but not all places, there are local laws on the books requiring property owners to remove snow from adjacent public sidewalks and driveways, usually within a certain period (usually 24 to 48 hours). But in some cities, local ordinances go beyond simply requiring snow removal. They may also outline where the removed snow can and cannot be piled up.

Some cities may require property owners to remove snow from fire hydrants, benches, or common areas adjacent to their property. Others may limit where you can pile the snow (throwing snow in the road is against the law in many towns) or how high you can pile snow up along a walkway. Some may even limit what kinds of road salt or other deicing materials you can use on your walkways and driveways.

Despite what the local ordinances specify, it’s advisable to take the initiative to avoid getting hit with fines for improper snow removal.

Property Type

When sharing snow removal responsibilities, who gets given the assignment also depends on what type of rental property you own. Let’s say multi-family property owners are almost always responsible for snow removal. However, for single-family rental homes, most owners and landlords can appoint the job of snow removal to the tenant.

This arrangement may function in multiple cases, especially if your tenant already handles yard maintenance and other basic tasks. However, it’s worth mentioning that the local ordinances still apply, so you need to educate your tenant on proper snow removal practices to prevent running afoul of the law.

Tenant Ability

One more significant thing to remember is your tenant’s ability to perform snow removal tasks correctly and on time. If your tenant isn’t physically able to execute such obligations or is considered a member of a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you may need to make other arrangements. While requiring a disabled tenant to do their snow removal is not technically illegal, a lack of consideration for your tenant could drastically affect tenant relations. In cases like this, you may find the more ethical and profitable option to be hiring a professional Federal Way property manager to do it for your tenant or simply doing it yourself if you want.

Lease Documents

Most single-family rental property owners demand their tenants to deal with snow removal. What is more, if you intend to do the same, it’s critical to include clear language in your lease that outlines your tenant’s responsibilities connected to that duty. Another best practice is to incorporate any related information from local ordinances if your tenant needs to follow specific rules. Not only can clear lease documents help your tenant understand their responsibilities regarding snow removal, but they can also be an invaluable resource should a dispute arise.

As another option, if you plan to provide snow removal, be sure to outline that in the lease as well. You should also include expectations related to that service, such as moving vehicles or not parking on the street during snow removal service times.


One of the great advantages of appointing a property management company like Real Property Management Excelled is that we will assist you in identifying how best to handle snow removal at your rental property. Contact us online today to understand more about our full range of Federal Way property management services.

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