Much of Ontario will be walking -- and shovelling -- in a winter wonderland today. 

Everyone knows (or should know) that big fines are in store if you fail to shovel the snow outside your home. But what if you rent your property? Is it still your responsibility, or your landlord’s?

That’s the $500 question. 

According to Section 20(1) of the Residential Tenancies Act, “a landlord is responsible for providing and maintaining a residential complex, including the rental units in it, in a good state of repair and fit for habitation and for complying with health, safety, housing and maintenance standards.” And according to court rulings, this includes snow removal. 

snow clearing'@tylersjourney/Instagram

With that said, some lease agreements specifically state that snow removal is the tenant’s responsibility. However, any clause in a rental agreement that allocated snow removal to the tenant is seen as unenforceable.

If a landlord does want to pass the responsibility of snow removal onto the tenant, and the tenant voluntarily agrees, it needs to be done though a separate contract to avoid any slippery slopes (see what we did there?), as though the landlord was hiring through a third party -- something that was driven home in Ontario’s infamous Montgomery v. Van case. 

The 2009 case was brought to court when a tenant sued after she slipped walking towards the stairs of her basement apartment. While her lease agreement stated that tenants were responsible for keeping their walkway clean -- including snow removal -- the court ruled that passing shovelling responsibilities to a tenant can only be done through a separate contract or severable cause. This should include timelines, how the snow shall be removed, whether they’ll be provided with a shovel or equipment, and whether dollars are dropped from rent as compensation for the labour. 

In the City of Toronto, people have 12 hours to clear the snow after snowfall or they’ll face a $500 fine right in time for the holidays.

Urban Living