HOA Tips for Handling Snow Removal

By Margret McBurney
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Our association wants to reduce snow removal costs. We’re looking at everything from landscaping companies to a neighbor with a plow on his truck. What liability issues should we be considering?

Slips and falls on snow and ice are one of the most prevalent types of premise liability claims. Injuries arising from slips and falls can be serious, often resulting in fractured or broken bones. As such, I caution associations to not be “penny wise, pound foolish” when hiring a snow removal contractor.

Most importantly, always enter into a written contract that contains service level and insurance requirements, as well as indemnification of the association for any negligence by the contractor. If the neighbor with the plow does not want to sign a contract or does not have sufficient liability insurance, I would caution against hiring him. The association also should require that it be named as an additional insured on the snow removal contractor’s commercial general liability policies.

As a best practice, the association’s attorney should review all vendor contracts and insurance policies to ensure compliance with these requirements.

Another thing to consider is what should be included in the contract regarding service level requirements. For instance, what equipment will the contractor use and where will it be stored? What depth of snow will trigger service? How often will you require your contractor to salt surfaces? Where will you allow the contractor to push snow?

A final consideration when hiring a snow removal contractor is the documentation of snow removal efforts. Require your contractor to maintain records of snow and ice removal along with surface treatment efforts. This information memorializes the reasonableness of your snow removal efforts in the event of a lawsuit. Record keeping also helps ensure your contractor is complying with the contract’s service level requirements.

Be wary, however, of signing any document your contractor presents after providing service. While you can sign a document confirming they were there at a certain time and provided snow removal services, you do not want to sign anything containing a warranty or representation stating you have confirmed the adequacy of the services. Doing so could make it difficult to hold the contractor responsible if a slip and fall later occurs related to snow and ice conditions.

When hiring any vendor, ensuring you have mitigated your association’s risk is always paramount to any short-term cost savings.

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Margret McBurney

Margret McBurney is an attorney, vice president of claims and loss control, and industry lead for community associations at Distinguished Programs, a national insurance program manager.