By Joyce M. Rosenberg, AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Snow can be more than an irritant and disruption for small businesses. It can also be a legal liability.
Let's say there's been a storm and you haven't removed the snow from the sidewalk outside your building or store. Or you've done a sloppy job and left ice. If someone slips and falls, it could cost you. Even if you have insurance, you'll likely have expenses and probably a higher premium in the future.
For many new business owners, this is the first time they've had to consider snow from a commercial rather than residential vantage point. It's a good idea to find out what the law, your insurance policy and maybe even your landlord require you to do, before the next snowstorm gets you in trouble.
GET A LEGAL EDUCATION
The laws covering responsibility for snow removal vary from state to state, and even from one municipality to another. You need to find out what you're required to do.
In Connecticut, for example, whoever is "in possession and control of" the property adjacent to a sidewalk is responsible for removing snow and ice and keeping the sidewalk reasonably safe. That "whoever" could be the building's owner. But if the tenant has control over the property, he or she is responsible. So, if you have a store in the state, or any place with a similar law, you need to clear the snow and ice and put down salt or sand.
You also need to know the laws about when you must have the snow cleared. Does the law allow you to start after all the snow has fallen, or do you need to be out there clearing it away before you have three-feet drifts? If the snow stops at 3 a.m., do you have to be out there soon after?