As heavy snow and freezing conditions grip the country, many landlords and tenants will want to clear ice and snow from paths and driveways to ensure they can get in and out of their homes.
But if someone trips or falls on a cleared pathway or suffers an injury slipping on uncleared ice and snow outside a private rented home, who is liable – the landlord or tenant?
Most of us like to behave like good neighbours, so this bad weather guide for landlords explains who should pick up the shovel and how to safely clear snow and ice from outside a rented property.
- 1 What the law says about clearing snow
- 2 How to safely clear ice and snow
- 3 Snow clearing FAQ for landlords
- 3.1 What’s the landlord’s liability for slips outside an HMO?
- 3.2 What if a tenant asks me to clear away snow?
- 3.3 Can I get insurance to cover snow and ice problems?
- 3.4 How much snow does the UK get?
- 3.5 Does the SARAH Act apply to landlords?
- 3.6 Find out which roads are gritted near you
- 3.7 More information
What the law says about clearing snow
There is not a law that says you must or must not clear snow and ice from paths, driveways or even the pavement or road outside a rented home.
However, someone clearing ice and snow could be considered negligent if their work deliberately or recklessly leads to a hazard.
Government guidance and insurance companies are non-committal, but they all agree it’s unlikely a landlord would face a successful claim from a tenant or visitor to the property unless access was made more dangerous if a path to the door was cleared or the claim was related to a defect the landlord should have been aware of.
Even if someone tried to sue after a slip or fall, landlord insurance should cover the incident through standard public liability cover.
Unless there is a specific term in the tenancy agreement, it’s more than likely the tenant has the obligation to clear their own paths for a single buy to let.
Shared houses are a little more complicated because several tenants may use the same common areas and, in many cases, snow clearing is a task the landlord or their property manager takes on.
Don’t forget people walking on snow and ice have a responsibility to be careful as well.
How to safely clear ice and snow
Don’t approach the task of clearing a path without considering the three main rules:
- Ensure you put any snow you clear out of the way of people and vehicles.
- Don’t dump snow anywhere that hides a hazard.
- Don’t melt snow or ice with water than can refreeze and make the surface worse.
The Department of Transport offers some handy guidelines.
- Clear snow soon after it falls or first thing in the morning. Snow is less compacted and easy to shift ten and any sunshine or warmer temperature during the day will help melt underlying ice.
Go over the path with salt before nightfall to stop any refreezing.
- Pay extra attention to steps or slopes using salt or sand to avoid black ice forming.
- You don’t have to buy special bags of salt to clear ice – table or dishwasher salt will do, and you only need to use a tablespoon per square metre to tackle ice.
- Salt will harm plants and grass, so be careful where you spread it.
- If you don’t have salt, sand or ash will do. It’s not as effective as salt but is better than nothing and flags there’s a hazard to people walking on the path.
The best way to shovel snow is to make a narrow path down the middle of the area you want to clear. This gives you a safe path to walk on. Then, clear the snow from the centre to the sides to widen the path.
Snow clearing FAQ for landlords
The simple act of being a Good Samaritan can lead to disagreements and even being sued.
Concerns about the consequences can mean people don’t bother to help someone in need.
Even clearing snow and ice to make a path less slippery can cause an upset, but this Guild of Landlords guide attempts to put some of these urban myths to bed.
What’s the landlord’s liability for slips outside an HMO?
If a tenant hurts themselves after falling on ice or snow on a common area of a shared house, the landlord’s responsibility comes down to considering three factors:
- Could they reasonably be expected to prevent the accident?
- Did the say they would deal with the problem but failed to act?
- Does the tenancy agreement make the issue their responsibility?
If the answer to each question is no, then the landlord is not liable.
What if a tenant asks me to clear away snow?
If you have no responsibility to do so, you can either be a good neighbour and help or make a polite excuse and leave the tenant to sort the matter out.
Can I get insurance to cover snow and ice problems?
Damage and injury claims from adverse weather, including snow and ice, are already included as standard on most landlord insurance policies, so there’ no need to pay for extra cover.
How much snow does the UK get?
Little snow settles in the UK and on average snow only falls 15.6 days a year, according to the Met Office. Even then, most of the snow is in hilly or mountainous areas and does not affect low-lying areas.
Does the SARAH Act apply to landlords?
Landlords are covered as much as any other citizen by The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015 (SARAH Act 2015).
The terms of the law apply when someone is negligent when acting for the benefit of another. The aim of the Act is to stop people being put off doing good for fear of legal action if something went wrong.
Find out which roads are gritted near you
Follow the link and input your post code for information about which roads are gritted near you or your investment property.