January 4, 2024

Who is responsible for snow removal: the landlord or the tenant?

Some people are excited when they see the first snow of winter. Others are not so thrilled since it means having to clear snow and ice from balconies, sidewalks, and stairs. That being said, as a tenant, who is responsible for snow removal: you or the landlord? And what happens if there is an incident? In this article, we review your responsibilities and obligations in this area. After all, being forewarned is forearmed!


What does the lease specify regarding snow removal?

When signing the lease, pay particular attention to section E. It specifies who, the landlord or the tenant, is responsible for clearing snow from building balconies and staircases, and perhaps for spreading salt or abrasives on the ice.[1]

The situation differs slightly in the case of an owner-occupant who is fully responsible for snow removal.[2] However, depending on the terms of the lease, the owner-occupant may decide to share this task with the other occupants.

If the landlord is responsible for removing snow and ice but is negligent in this regard, the tenant can write the landlord requesting that the situation be corrected. If the issue is not resolved, the tenant can send the landlord a formal notice, then contact the Tribunal administratif du logement to demand a reduction in rent.[3]

Shared staircases or balconies

Living in an apartment implies living harmoniously with other occupants of the building – what is referred to as the “good neighbour principle.” Therefore, if you share certain common areas with a neighbour residing on the same floor as you, the responsibility for snow removal falls to the designated person.[4] And, depending on the terms of your lease, it could very well be that you both are responsible!

If this is the case, a tenant might be content with only clearing snow from their section of the stairs and in front of their door. In the event of a dispute, quickly contact the building owner to inform them of the situation.

Who is responsible in the event of an incident?

Access to your apartment must always be safe and emergency exits must be kept clear for both you and your visitors. But if someone falls down a staircase covered in ice because it was poorly maintained, what happens? And if the person suffers serious or permanent injury, they may go so far as to sue the landlord.[5]

On the other hand, if snow removal is the tenant’s responsibility, the landlord can take action against the tenant for negligence.[6] Hence the importance of having good tenant insurance which includes liability insurance.

Municipal snow removal regulations

In Quebec, each city and municipality sets out their own regulations regarding snow removal. Moreover, most prohibit shovelling snow onto public spaces, such as streets, sidewalks, and bike paths.[7] In return, the municipal administration is responsible for clearing snow from these spaces within a reasonable time to ensure the safety of pedestrians.[8]

Whether you like it or not, you will have to get out your warm clothes and get ready to face winter! If in doubt about snow removal, consult your lease and use common sense. If necessary, ask the building owner to provide you with the necessary equipment and abrasives. Very often, a little shovelling can save a lot of trouble!

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