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Landlord vs. tenant: Who cleans up the snow?

Landlords are responsible for clearing snow, unless the

Landlords are responsible for clearing snow, unless the tenant's contract states otherwise. (Jan. 30, 2011) Photo Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Is it the responsibility of the owner of a private two- or three-family home to remove snow or is it the tenants? What if there’s an absentee owner? Is there a time limit as to when the snow should be removed? Also, is shoveling the sidewalk mandatory?

 “Within 24 hours of the end of a snowfall, landlords are required to handle snow removal in New York State,” says John Morgan, a real estate attorney at Morgan & Morgan in Rockville Centre. “However, the responsibility of snow removal may be transferred from a landlord to a tenant through the lease agreement. So even if the landlord is served a citation, he may be able to hold the tenant legally responsible,” adds Morgan.

Curbs and sidewalks may be owned by the municipality, but many villages will put the onus on the landlord. Review your lease carefully and check with your local village office for snow removal codes whether you are the tenant or the landlord.

A wise owner will shovel, clear, salt and sand to prevent the likelihood of injury, says Morgan. "Don’t forget that a partially cleared area may invite liability," he says.

This winter is especially problematic because there have been numerous storms and old ice is under new snow — a situation that the homeowner or tenant should take seriously. Injuries from snow and ice falls are usually serious because they often involve broken hips, arms and ankle fractures that may require surgery. Avoid problems and keep up with snow removal.

Need some advice? E-mail your question to realestate@newsday.com.

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