Time will tell whether global warming and climate change eventually make winter—and its attendant snow, ice, sleet, and other challenging weather issues—extinct, but for now at least, the colder months can take a seasonal toll on buildings and surrounding property. With the proper planning, forethought, and communication however, building administrators can stay ahead of this sometimes-unpleasant season. With a few tips from experts, you can confidently work to minimize the risks that snow and ice can bring.
Know Your Responsibilities
The first step in making sure your winter season responsibilities don’t catch you by surprise is familiarizing yourself with the specific laws and regulations pertaining to snow and ice maintenance in your area. Responsibilities and potential liabilities for buildings and associations can vary, depending on municipal ordinances, building size and development layout. Even if you are a seasoned property manager, new laws and regulations go into effect sometimes—and sometimes without much (if any) notification. So it definitely pays to do a little bit of research.
Many of the locality-specific requirements can be found on municipal informational websites like www1.nyc.gov for New York City, or mass.gov, which offers state-wide regulations for Massachusetts, as well as a city and town list where you can find specific bylaws and ordinances for your town. New regulations went into effect as of December 28, 2015 for the city of Chicago, according to cityofchicago.org — so even if you think you know your responsibilities for snow removal, it might be a good idea to check in on a municipal website before receiving a potentially costly citation even after you’ve fulfilled your understanding of a previous years’ regulations. Some more suburban townships also have noise ordinance laws in effect, which can make the time you have to clear the snow or ice after the fall ceases a very specific window.
In general, it is safe to assume that all sidewalks, walkways and driveways on and adjacent to the property fall under property management and association responsibility. Working a regulation check into your winter prep period can also help to inform your hiring of potential snow and ice removal contractors. Tom Canete, owner of Canete Snow Management, a snow removal company that serves Manhattan’s five boroughs as well as New Jersey and Westchester, advises that property managers have a sit-down meeting with potential contractors.
“You should ask about their storm action plan,” he says. “Make sure that yours is site specific; and make sure there’s more than one plan” in place for different amounts of snowfall and ice accumulation, because “no two storms are alike.” Canete also advises making sure the company you are interviewing has a good sense of how to handle these differences with multiple plans to put in effect, ranging from small accumulations to state of emergency, 100-year blizzards.