Snow season is upon us! Most communities have secured their vendors for the season, with signed contracts already in place. For many communities, those snow removal contracts include snowfall triggers that obligate the vendor to mobilize and fulfill the contract obligations once a specific snowfall threshold is reached, such as two inches of snow. The threshold set in the contract drives both the cost to the association and the priority for vendor mobilization. In other words, if an association chooses a higher threshold of, say, three inches, the association will pay less but will also fall farther down the line of vendor priority when a heavy snowfall occurs because vendor crews will tackle one inch and two inch trigger properties first. Association boards must weigh these factors and make business decisions according to their communities’ needs when deciding on contract terms.
Boards should also consider potential liabilities as part of the snow contract negotiating and decision-making process. This attention to potential liabilities especially holds true now, after passage of Senate Bill 18-062 (“SB 18-62”) by the Colorado legislature. Senate Bill 18-62 addresses snow removal vendor liability in the context of contract terms. Generally, SB 18-62 creates a new statutory provision—C.R.S. 13-21-129—that makes void any contract term that would require a vendor to indemnify, hold harmless, or defend an association when damages or injuries result from the association’s acts or omissions if the contract or other writing prohibits the vendor from mitigating a “specific snow, ice, or other mixed precipitation event or risk.”
This statutory language, known as the Snow Removal Service Liability Limitation Act, introduces new legal protections for vendors and begs attention to different scenarios that could result in association responsibility for injuries from snow and ice accumulation on common areas. Association boards should take the following steps to protect their communities from potential consequences related to snow removal under the new law:
Submit any snow removal contract for review by the association’s attorney. Even if the association’s attorney drafted the contract originally, the new law should prompt legal review and updates. In consultation with legal counsel, the association may decide, among other things, to (1) alert the vendor to the expectation that the board receive communication about any problem areas on the property and options for how to address the issues most effectively and efficiently and (2) clearly state that the vendor remains responsible to indemnify, hold harmless, and defend against damages resulting from vendor’s acts or omissions unrelated to mitigation.
Discuss insurance coverage with the association’s broker, and update insurance as appropriate, in light of the new law and any contract updates.
Implement proper risk management, such as signage, ice melt, and proactive attention to drainage concerns, to help avoid slip and falls and escalating costs under the vendor contract during the snow season.
Communicate with owners about snow removal expectations throughout the community. Minimizing liability involves educating residents about risks on the property and how to protect themselves during Colorado winters.