Time will tell whether global warming and climate change eventually make winter – and its attendant snow, ice, sleet, and other challenging weather issues – extinct, but for now at least, the colder months can take a seasonal toll on buildings and surrounding property. With the proper planning, forethought, and communication, however, building administrators can stay ahead of this sometimes-unpleasant season. With a few tips from experts, you can confidently work to minimize the risks that snow and ice can bring.
Know Your Responsibilities
The first step in making sure your winter season responsibilities don’t catch you by surprise is familiarizing yourself with the specific laws and regulations pertaining to snow and ice maintenance in your area. Many of the locality-specific requirements can be found on municipal information websites. New regulations often go into effect before a single flake falls – so even if you think you know your responsibilities for snow removal, it might be a good idea to check in with your municipal website before receiving a potentially costly citation. Some more suburban townships also have noise ordinance laws in effect, which can make the time you have to clear the snow or ice after the fall ceases a very specific window.
A major issue for condo boards and managers is liability, especially due to slip-and-falls. “You could be liable anywhere. We’ve seen some cases against service providers or property managers where, say it’s a common area of a building and someone has snow or ice on their boots and they walk into the building and because of the wetness they can have a slip and fall. They can say that part of that was because of the exterior surfaces or not having mats inside for traction,” says Martin Tirado, CEO of the Snow & Ice Management Association, a national non-profit trade group based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin .
While the standards vary from state to state, across the country either building owners or service providers could be held accountable for slips and falls. “Anywhere there is the potential of a slip and fall, there is the potential for litigation and for someone to sue a service provider or a property owner. What it can do is really drive up the insurance costs, especially if they have claims,” says Tirado.
In general, it is safe to assume that all sidewalks, walkways and driveways on and adjacent to the property fall under property management and association responsibility. Working a regulation check into your winter prep period can also help to inform your hiring of potential snow and ice removal contractors. Snow pros advise property managers to have a meeting with potential contractors to ascertain whether a groundskeeping contractor can be trusted to do the job well, and with a minimal amount of disruption to the community and residents.