What a Landlord Must Do to Protect Its Tenants From a Slip and Fall on the Ice

Winter has finally arrived in a big way with today’s snow and ice storm. If you are a tenant renting your apartment, absent a lease to the contrary, you have a right to expect your landlord to take all reasonable steps to make sure the parking lots and walkways are cleared so that you do not slip and fall on the ice.

What is Reasonable?

But what does it mean to take all reasonable steps? Nobody assumes that landlords should be responsible to keep parking lots and walkways clear in the middle of a snow storm. So, what can you, as a tenant, expect from your landlord when it comes to keeping you safe from a slip and fall on the ice during the winter?

Hills and Ridges Doctrine

The law says that landlords are not liable when a person sustains a slip and fall on the  ice or snow that is a natural accumulation. This is called the Hills and Ridges doctrine. It stands for the premise that a landlord is not going to be responsible for a natural accumulation of ice and snow that has not been on the ground long enough to reasonably expect the landlord to clear it. The amount of time varies depending on the circumstances, but if hours and hours have gone by, then that landlord better have cleared a safe path for the tenant. If the landlord cannot keep you safe, why are you paying your rent?

What a Landlord Should do to Protect You From a Slip and Fall on the Ice

In order to ensure the landlord has upheld their end of the bargain, a tenant should expect that the landlord has taken on the following precautions:

  1. Check the forecast. Whether it is a landlord or a snow contractor, they should be expected to know the forecast so they are ready if a major winter event occurs. Being ready means having the right amount of staff scheduled to work, the right amount of salt or calcium chloride, and staff assigned to the varying hours they will be needed.
  2. Know the terrain. A landlord should be very familiar with the property and aware of the spots where a slip and fall on the ice is the most likely to occur. They should know where the down spouts are located in case ice forms underneath them, and they should know where dangerous trouble spots are in the parking lots and walkways so extra attention is paid to them. Lastly, they should know where to store the snow they plow and shovel. If a parking lot is located on a slant, and the snow is piled on the high ground, it will melt during the day and flow over the parking lot, freezing at night into black ice.
  3. Have a plan. The landlord should not just send a crew out to the property assuming they will cover everything. Specific staff should be assigned to specific locations and when they do their job, they should keep detailed notes to be submitted to the landlord to ensure everyone is accountable.

If a Slip and Fall on the Ice Occurs in an Area Where Tenants Walk, the Landlord is Responsible.

Keep in mind, an apartment is not like a store or a shopping mall. Tenants come and go for work and pleasure anytime they want to, so there are no closing hours. That means that it does not matter if a tenant has a slip and fall on the ice at four in the morning or four in the afternoon. If the landlord should have expected that tenants would be walking in the area where a slip and fall on the ice has happened, then the landlord should have had it cleared and made safe for the tenant to walk. That is the bargain landlords make. Tenants pay rent to call a property a home, and in exchange, landlords must take all reasonable steps to ensure tenants are not exposed to the danger of a slip and fall on the ice.

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