Massachusetts Snow Removal Statutes
In July 2010, a series of state statutes went into effect that are particularly relevant this winter, with the National Weather Service predicting one Polar Vortex after another to come whirling through the state. Massachusetts General Laws ch. 85, §§ 5, 6, and 7 assign shoveling duties for sidewalks, driveways, and streets, on both public and private property.
If you own property in Massachusetts, whether residential or commercial, you are required by these statutes to take responsibility in a number of ways for removing or mitigating the snow drifts and ice sheets that accumulate on sidewalks and parking lots. This may involve do it yourself shoveling, contracting with a snowplow service, or hiring someone to distribute sand or salt on the accumulated white stuff. If you fail to do your part, and someone is injured as a result, you could face liability for either physical injury, property damage, or both.
Property Owners Responsible For Public Sidewalks
Responsibility for snow-related maintenance is not limited to property you own but may also apply to public property adjoining your private property. In cities like Boston, Worcester, and Lynn, property owners are responsible for keeping the sidewalks in front of their businesses or residences clear of snow and safe for pedestrians. There may even be a time limit on how long you can wait before clearing the sidewalk. The city ordinance in Worcester, for example, allows you only 10 hours after it stops snowing to clear away ice and snow from sidewalks in front of your business or residence. Failure to do so may lead to a fine of $75 for every day the snow or ice remains uncleared. In Boston, a property owner must clear the entire width of the sidewalk or a minimum of 42 inches, within three hours after the snow ceases to fall, to avoid fines. This holds true, even if that monster drift was plowed onto your sidewalk by a city plow. For the specific snow removal ordinance for your town, click the ordinances and bylaws for Massachusetts towns, find your town, and search for “snow removal.” If your town is not listed here, contact your local town or city hall for more information.
Snow Must Be Disposed Of Properly
In most Massachusetts cities and towns, from Lynn to Salem to Boston, the obvious destination for the snow, either shoveled by hand or jettisoned by snow blower, is not available. You can’t just toss it into the street. Penalties range from $75 to $100 for a first offense and rise to $200 for the third. Even if your residential property is vacant, whether it’s for sale or not, you must keep the sidewalks clear of snow and ice. Obviously, you would not want a real estate agent or a potential buyer to slip and fall. Snow removal laws for the clearance of sidewalks, paths, and driveways are also enforced in suburban and rural locations for the protection of postal service letter carriers, delivery truck drivers, meter readers, and others who need safe access to your property during winter weather. You don’t want to be denied mail service or be sued for a delivery person’s injuries. Check your applicable insurance policies to ensure you have adequate coverage.
As experienced Massachusetts real estate attorneys, Pulgini & Norton can help you with all of your real estate legal needs. If you have a question regarding buying or selling a home, give us a call today at 781-843-2200 or contact our office online, and we can help legally clear the way for you.