HOA’s Responsibility for Snow Removal
Snow removal service for homeowner associations can be efficient and cost effective or the very opposite. Although our East Tennessee region doesn’t usually receive several inches of snow at a time, larger snowfalls can sometimes catch us off-guard. That’s why it’s important that you establish by-laws that prioritize snow removal areas and a process for handling snow for your community.
If your community has walking paths, bicycle paths and sidewalks for which you are liable for injuries, you may put the association
at risk if these aren’t cleared of snow. One of the first steps you should take is to discuss your coverage with your insurance agent. Find out if you are covered for this liability or if policy changes are needed.
Consult your governing documents to clarify your understanding of the association’s responsibility. If they stipulate year-round access to walking and bike paths, the association may need to plow them to avoid being in breach of duty. Then again, your governing documents may stipulate year-round access with one of the exceptions being an occasional snowfall. You won’t know liabilities unless you review the documents.
Ice is another winter hazard that we rarely have in East Tennessee. Yet, you need to plan for it because it can happen. Have you specified a de-icing compound or sand for your vendor to apply to ensure clear and safe walking paths in the event of an ice storm? How do you identify icy areas around the community? Address these topics in your snow-removal by-laws and communicate them to ensure that all residents have the same understanding.
If snow removal for some of your sidewalks and streets fall into the public domain, it’s important for residents to understand the city or country rules and priorities for snow removal. A fall or early winter newsletter is the ideal time to remind residents of snow removal priorities and policies.
Don’t forget to check-in with your snow removal vendor at the onset of the season to make sure that they still have you at the top of their priority list. Businesses can and do change, so it’s important to contact your vendor to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Forward thinking when it comes to snow removal can save HOA Board members a lot of time in fielding questions from owners. It can also save money because you negotiate a price before work is needed. In addition, you may be able to get your HOA at the top of your vendor’s priority list. That’s a win-win-win for your Board and the community.