RHINO is the Rental Housing Information Network in Ohio

Today in Ohio history

November 29, 1926 -- Tris Speaker resigns as the Cleveland *red herrings's* manager. "Speaker guided the 1920 *herrings* to their first World Series win. In a crucial late season game against the second-place White Sox, Speaker caught a hard line drive hit to deep right-center field by Shoeless Joe Jackson, ending the game. On a dead run, Speaker leaped with both feet off the ground, snaring the ball before crashing into a concrete wall. As he lay unconscious from the impact, Speaker still held the baseball.

This week's rental housing news

11/29/20 - 12/6/20

Snow removal in Ohio

"More wet than white" is the Farmer's Almanac forecast for the upcoming winter season. But that shouldn't be much consolidation to millions of Ohio renters faced with the snow removal dilemma. It's not too soon to start thinking about snow removal. Seventy years ago this week, the Great Appalachian Snow dumped 44" of snow in Steubenville with wind gusts of up to 60 MPH creating snow drifts over 20 feet. The entire state was blanketed!

Newcomers to Ohio are often shocked to learn that, in Ohio, snow removal is not part of a landlord's duty to keep the common areas safe and sanitary.

In 1979, the Ohio Supreme Court decided that landlords are not responsible to remove "natural accumulations" of snow and in a 1993 case, Justice Andy Douglas warned of "inherent dangers" in a case involving a local snow removal ordinance.

So what is a natural accumulation? If a landlord decides to plow the parking lot in a way that creates snow mountains around parked cars and sidewalks, that's no longer a "natural accumulation". If a parking lot melts and refreezes that may or may not be a "natural accumulation." Tenants could bring an action based on the landlord tenant law requirement that landlords "Keep all common areas of the premises in a safe and sanitary condition." The catch is: the landlord may decide to do nothing!

Can a landlord shift the snow removal duty to a tenant? Maybe!

1. The Ohio Landlord Tenant Law prohibits a landlord from shifting a landlord duty to a tenant. ORC 5321.13A, but....

2. A landlord may compensate a tenant to do snow removal in common areas. Tenant advocates recommend that the parties make a written agreement, separate from the lease. That way, failure to comply with the snow removal agreement won't result in eviction.

3. Keep in mind that in a single family rental property, the driveway and walkways are usually under the exclusive control of the tenant. Therefore they are not covered by the landlord's "common area" duty.

The Federal and State Fair Housing Acts may be of assistance if a tenant has a disability. When a tenant with a disability needs a change in a rule, policy or procedure, the tenant can ask for a reasonable accommodation (RA) of the snow removal policy. Don't wait til you trip or fall! Make the request before the snow flies. If the landlord refuses to comply or offer an alternative to your requested accommodation, you may file a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC)

Some years ago, at Cedar Oaks Apartments in Canton, the tenant organization developed a snow removal plan that included sidewalk clearing, salting, and parking lot plowing. In the past, tenants fought with snow mountains on the sidewalks and behind parked cars when plow drivers cleared the parking lot. In the tenants' plan, plow drivers were required to push snow into a vacant lot. Management said NO! (as in..."you can't tell us how to run our property.") So tenants filed a complaint with the OCRC. The case took almost a year to settle, but during that winter, tenants documented the barriers created by sloppy snow removal and hospital reports of "slip and fall" accidents. The following spring, tenants got a favorable settlement. In a multifamily property, a single person with a mobility impairment can win a snow removal accommodation that benefits all the neighbors.