Winter is on its way, and with winter comes snow and, thanks to Minnesota’s chaotic freeze-thaw cycles, ice. As anyone who has weathered a winter here can tell you, ice not only makes the roads gnarly, but it can be a major slip-and-fall hazard, too—one that your HOA might have a legal responsibility to prevent on its grounds.
But how can you prevent something with such an unpredictable nature? Gassen, Eden Prairie HOA management pros, is here with tips and details on your HOA’s responsibilities.
The Legal Skinny
Two things may affect your HOA’s responsibility to deal with slip-and-fall hazards: state law and your own regulations.
State law is a complex topic, but the short of it is that HOAs generally have what’s called a “Fiduciary Duty.” According to Nolo, part of this means that your HOA board follows its governing documents. And those governing documents may or may not say something about ice removal or the maintenance and safety of common areas.
If your HOA doesn’t follow its prewritten laws, it opens itself up to being sued.
How to Prevent Ice-Related Slips and Falls
The good news is that there’s plenty your HOA can do to keep its members safe and happy, and its legal snafus few.
While much of it boils down to doing your duty and following your governing documents, going the extra mile can prove more than helpful.
Make a Maintenance Plan Now
Review your HOA management’s governing documents. If they say something, either implicitly or explicitly, about ice-related maintenance, it’s time to make an action plan.
What concrete steps will you take to make sure any applicable surfaces stay grippy? Do you have protocol in place for potential ice storms? What vendors will you do business with this year, if any, that will hold responsibility for protecting your community? Do you need to fix any areas that are ice prone?
As with many things in property management services, preemptive action and preventive maintenance are keys to your success.
Send Out Reminders Before Ice Season Begins
Making your HOA residents aware of potentially slippery areas – via online property management services or otherwise – can prevent them from slipping in the first place, eliminating grounds for a lawsuit.
Though your HOA can and should try its best to keep things full-traction, the weather isn’t exactly predictable here, and preemptive information can make all the difference.
It’s helpful in your ice season newsletter or reminder to include:
● Whose responsibility it is to remove ice from sidewalks. Some HOAs include sidewalk snow removal and salting as part of their snow removal contract with an outside vendor. Other HOAs stipulate that neighborhood streets will be plowed but homeowners are responsible for clearing sidewalks. Review your snow plow contract and share it with your residents.
● Recommend best ice removal practices. If it is the responsibility of your residents to remove ice from their sidewalks, let them know about good ways to deice in your community. For neighborhoods with dog owners, suggest that residents use dog friendly salts and deicing agents. When removing snow, ice, and slush from concrete sidewalks, it’s better to use plastic snow shovels than metal because metal is more likely to chip and damage concrete.
● Remind residents of timelines. Let residents know how soon after a snowfall they should try to have their sidewalks cleared. Send out reminders as snowstorms occur, too, to help keep residents on top of their duties.
Gassen: Here to Take the Reins When You Need Us
Running an HOA can be tricky; let our accounting property management team or our comprehensive property management pros make it simple. Give our Eden Prairie office a call today at 952-922-5575.