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Duty to Remove Snow and Ice

Anyone who’s lived in this area for any length of time will tell you that Knoxville occasionally gets hit with a severe winter storm.  Believe it or not, this has happened in recent years as late as March and even April. When this occurs, what responsibility does an apartment manager have to keep outside areas free from ice and snow?

In Tennessee, a landlord has a duty to take reasonable steps to remove natural accumulations of ice and snow from common areas within a reasonable amount of time. Where the precipitation is recent or continuous, this duty to remove has not been imposed because it’s simply not reasonable to force a landlord to continuously remove ice and snow in the middle of an ongoing storm.  The accumulation of ice and snow is considered one of the normal hazards of life.  Liability is imposed only when the person in control of the premises allows the snow and ice to remain beyond a reasonable amount of time.

What is “reasonable” usually depends on:


The length of time the accumulation has been present,


The amount of the accumulation,


Whether the accumulation could be, as a practical matter, removed,


The cost of removal, and


The foreseeability of injury.

In a trial, whether or not a landlord has exercised the required degree of care is a question for the jury.  For example, a tenant broke his hip by falling down some snow and ice-covered stairs at an apartment complex and sued the owners of the complex.  The court found that the owners did not have a duty under the circumstances to remove the snow and ice from the stairway where the tenant fell.  This was because the accident occurred right in the middle of approximately twelve hours of falling ice and snow.  In another case, there was a severe ice and snowstorm followed by four days of freezing temperatures and periods of additional snow.  A tenant was injured on the fourth day when she fell on a common walkway.  But here, the landlord was found negligent because he had made no attempt to remove the four-day accumulation of snow and ice.

When a landlord fails to remove an accumulation of snow and ice after a reasonable length of time has elapsed, he will be liable for any unsafe and dangerous condition thereby created.  

The information contained on this site is intended to educate members of the public generally and is not intended to provide solutions to individual legal problems. Readers are cautioned not to attempt to solve individual problems on the basis of information contained herein and are strongly advised to seek competent legal counsel before relying on information on this site.


This site is maintained by Vowell & Associates, Attorneys at Law, 6718 Albunda Drive, Knoxville TN 37919, Tel. 865-292-0000, Fax 865-292-0002, email
KnoxLeaseLaw, and DETAINER are trademarks of Vowell & Associates. Copyright © 2000 Vowell & Associates. All rights reserved.
Last modified: Monday November 21, 2005.