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Landlord Responsibilities During Inclement Weather

Whether you rent a property from a management company or a private owner, there are particular responsibilities that your landlord must meet. These responsibilities will either be defined by your leasing contract or local ordinances. The responsibilities of the landlord or the landlord’s agent can differ depending on whether you rent a single-family residence or if you live in a multi-family unit. If you are are concerned about your responabilities as a landlord or tenant in relation to inclement weather, please do not hesitate to contact the landlord tenant lawyers at Freundlich & Littman, LLC.

Look to Your Lease

Your lease will often detail what your landlord is or is not responsible for in times of inclement weather. Most leases will have a section discussing snow removal and inclement weather. On the whole, landlords tend to remove the snow from sidewalks and common areas, as required by law (more on that below). Landlords are not required to remove snow from your cars, but they are required to make their parking lots safe. Most landlords include inclement weather and snow removal responsibilities in their standard lease[1].

There are certain rights which cannot be contracted away in your lease agreement. These rights will be detailed below. If you signed a lease where any of your rights were waived, please contact our landlord tenant lawyers immediately.

What Does the Law Say?

The City of Philadelphia in particular has local ordinances which deal with snow removal responsibilities. It is the responsibility of the “owner, agent, or tenants of any building” to shovel the sidewalk on the premises. [2] This applies only to single family residences. If you live in a multi-family residence, like an apartment building or building with more than one apartment, it is not the tenant’s responsibility to remove snow from sidewalks or other common walkways on the property. Your landlord or their agent is required to remove the snow. If you are the tenant in a single-family residence, know that a 36-inch path is required to be shoveled, and it must be clear of snow and ice.

A landlord or their agent is not required to remove the snow immediately. They have until six hours after snowfall has ended to clear the snow from walkways and other common areas.[3] The landlord may not remove the snow and place it in the streets, as it comes with a $50 fine.

If you see snow removal violations, you have options. The City of Philadelphia’s 3-1-1 telephone line can be used to report non-emergencies. You may also call Philadelphia Streets Department Customer Affairs. Their number is (215) 686-5560. If this is a reoccurring issue or if your landlord refuses, do not hesitate to call one of our attorneys who are experienced in this area of law.

What if the Heating Goes Out?

Snow removal is not the only side-effect of inclement weather. The temperatures drop below freezing. If there is inclement weather which causes the heat to go out or the heat stops working during colder months, the landlord is required by law to provide a working heating system. They must keep all inhabitable rooms at a minimum of 68°F.[4] If the tenant has a working thermostat which is solely in the control of the tenant or the tenant inhabits a single-family dwelling, the landlord is only required to provide you with a working heater system.

The heating system needs to be turned on approximately between the first day of October until the last day of April, or if the outside temperature falls below 60°F. Note that if the outside temperature falls below 10°F, the landlord or their agent is not required to maintain the 68°F minimum; however, they must still provide a working heater that is maintained in good working order and unobstructed. Maintenance of the heating systems is the responsibility of the landlord. The cost of maintenance or repairs cannot be charged to the tenant.

What Should I Do Next?

You have options if your landlord is requiring you to shovel the snow in front of your multi-family rental property, especially if you are elderly. Shoveling the snow can cause medical issues especially if you are pregnant or infirm. First, lodge a complaint with your landlord or their agent. That puts them on notice and gives them the reasonable opportunity to take care of their responsibilities. If that does not work, it is the best idea to call a landlord tenant lawyer to seek their advice. Your landlord or management company will have an attorney, so they might be resistant to helping. A good landlord tenant lawyer can fight for your rights to walk on a walkway that is free from snow and ice or get you a recovery if you are injured because of a Landlord’s failure to clear their walkway. Call our team of of landlord tenant lawyers today at 215-545-8500 to schedule a free consultation.

[1] Where Landlords are responsible for sidewalk snow/ice removal they can be held liable if you are injured because of their failure to do so.

[2] The Philadelphia Code §10-720.

[4] PM §§ 405, 406

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