If you’re a tenant — particularly renting a single-family house or townhouse — make sure you know what your responsibilities might be when it comes to removing snow outside your premises.
Be sure to consult your lease and landlord and familiarize yourself with local laws regarding snow removal.
In general, if you’re renting a single-family house, you will be responsible for clearing sidewalks, driveways and walkways. You also may be responsible for keeping the gutters and drains free of snow and ice and making sure the downspouts are clear.
Before winter, you should have turned off the water that flows through the pipes to the outside of the home and drained any spigots on the exterior of the home to keep the pipes from freezing. Also, in another pipe-freeze-prevention measure, make sure the thermostat is at or above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, even if you’re going to be away for an extended time. Taking these precautions is important, because freezing pipes can cause a lot of damage to a home, for which you will be liable.
In single-family houses, you also will want to know the local laws about snow removal on the sidewalks. For example, District homeowners are required to clear snow and ice from their sidewalks within eight hours of the end of the storm. Failure to comply can result in the owner of the home being sued for the cost of clearing the snow plus a $25 fine.
Rockville, Md., residents and business owners have 24 to 72 hours after the last snowfall to remove snow from their sidewalks. Takoma Park residents must remove snow from the sidewalks before noon after a night of snowfall or 9 p.m. after a day of snowfall. Fines in Takoma Park range from $25 to $200.
In Alexandria, Va., residents have 24 to 72 hours to shovel the snow from the sidewalks, depending on the snowstorm response level, which you can find at www.alexandriava.gov. In Alexandria, failure to clear the sidewalk can result in a $50 fine, plus the city’s cost of having the sidewalk cleared.
In Fairfax County and the city of Fairfax, residents are not legally obligated to clear snow from their sidewalks, but they are encouraged to do so.
Prince George’s County, Md., residents must clear sidewalks 48 hours after a snowfall. After a warning period, they can be fined $100.
If you live in a townhouse or condo community, check to see whether the homeowner’s association or the resident is responsible for clearing walkways and sidewalks.
If you have your own entrance and patio, you might be responsible for those areas that are not a common element.
If you’re renting an apartment in a rowhouse, check your lease to see who is responsible for the care and maintenance of the exterior of the property.
If you live in an apartment building, chances are snow removal is taken care of by the community. If you live in a smaller rental property, such as a four-unit building, it might not be.
It’s always important to check your lease and local laws to ensure you won’t incur fines for failure to remove snow outside your building.
Nancy Simmons Starrs is founder and president of Apartment Detectives, a D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia apartment-search service.