As “mother nature” has the NY Metro area resembling parts of Alaska, this is a good time for landlords and tenants to take a good look at their lease(s) to see who has the duty for snow and ice removal. This is important for several reasons. First, there is the time and expense involved with the actual removal of the snow and salting to help prevent ice buildup. Then there is the potential liability issue for the party whose responsibility it is for snow and ice removal.
Most commercial leases involving ground floor or retail space with direct access to the sidewalk impose the burden on the tenant. This is the case in the most common forms used in the NY Metro area (i.e. Standard Form of Store Lease (7/04) as prepared by the Real Estate Board of New York and Form of Retail Lease (2009, modified 2010) as prepared by the Committee on Real Property Law of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York) and most other commercial leases. Many residential house leases also impose the burden on the tenant to remove snow and ice. In the absence of an express provision regarding snow and ice removal, the party who has the duty to maintain or repair the sidewalk and/or keep the sidewalk free of rubbish will also be responsible for snow and ice removal.
Turning to the liability issue, whichever party has the responsibility to remove snow and ice will also be liable if anyone “slips and falls” on the snow or ice.
In short, review your lease and see who has the duty to remove snow and ice. If you are the party that has the burden then crank up the snow blower and break out the shovels to keep the sidewalks, walkways and entrances free of snow, salt regularly to prevent ice buildup and maintain the proper insurance in the event of an accident.