Massachusetts snow removal laws and liability

News of impending snowstorms is a usual occurrence throughout New England winters.  Snowplows prepare the roads for daily commuters, and property owners watch the news gauging how long they’re going to have to spend shoveling and snow blowing driveways and sidewalks. Since snow rarely prevents New Englanders from doing what they have to get done, it’s important to know your state’s and city’s laws and liability regarding snow removal. 

Any accumulation of snow could result in dangerous terrain for drivers and pedestrians alike. As you’ve likely stocked up on ice salt and reliable shovels, you’ll have to venture into the cold a certain time after the storm. Not only do different cities require property owners to shovel and de-ice their surfaces after a storm—for Boston it’s 3 hours for businesses and 6 hours for residents—but it’s wise to start earlier so it doesn’t become back-breaking work. To make the roads safe for yourself as well as guests, neighbors, passersby, and family, any property owner, whether for an owner-occupied or rental property, must clear off their passageways. 

New Bedford Snow Removal Rules

Every owner or occupant of a building or lot of land abutting upon a sidewalk in any street or public place in the city shall cause the snow to be removed from such sidewalk within a reasonable time after such snow has ceased to fall; except that under unusual or extraordinary circumstances a reasonable time shall be held to be as follows: If snow falls in the day time, it shall be removed from the sidewalk within four (4) hours from time it shall have ceased falling; if in the night time, it shall be removed on or before 11:00 in the forenoon next succeeding.

Violations of this ordinance are subject to a $50.00 fine.

Fall River Snow Removal Rules

No owner or tenant of any estate abutting on a sidewalk shall place or suffer to remain for more than five (5) hours between sunrise and sunset any snow upon such sidewalk, or any ice upon such sidewalk unless such ice is made reasonably even and covered with sand, salt or other acceptable material to prevent slipping; nor shall any person place any ice or snow in a street outside of the sidewalk unless the ice or snow is made reasonable even at the time of placing. For the purpose of this section, sidewalks shall include wheelchair ramps extending from the sidewalk to the street.

Violations of this ordinance are subject to a $50.00 fine.

See > Taunton & Providence Snow Removal Requirements for Homeowners and Businesses


For landlords, the rules remain pretty black and white. Like for other property owners, the primary responsibility for removing snow and ice is on the landlord. This responsibility cannot be transferred to tenants through their lease. However, if there is any entrance that is only accessible by one unit, a landlord might include in the lease that the tenant of that unit is responsible for ice and snow removal for that entrance. Likely the best bet for landlords to prevent any harm for their tenants is to clear out all entrances, driveways, and sidewalks used by tenants. 

Failure to adequately clear property of snow could result in danger and harm to anyone on your property—and could potentially lead to a lawsuit. Additionally, there is a chance you could be fined for not removing snow. Remember to make sure your property is clear and safe and that depositing snow from your property into the street could also result in fines. 

In the case that someone does slip and fall on your property due to ineffective snow and ice removal, standard insurance policies usually cover it. If you’re faced with a lawsuit, your liability coverage should be at least $500,000 or $1,000,000. So, if you’re a property owner, make sure you invest in some ice melt, shovels, and warm winter clothes to prepare for any winter storm New England throws your way. 

D+Z: Experienced Accident Attorneys In Massachusetts & Rhode Island

If you have been injured in a snow-related accident, please contact us to speak with an experienced attorney. Dussault & Zatir P.C. has lawyers on call at 508-999-2000 to answer your personal injury questions.  With offices in New Bedford and Fall River, if you’ve been injured, our lawyers are here to fight for you.

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