Winter in Colorado is sure to bring cold weather, snow, and urgent phone calls about broken water lines and slip-and-fall accidents on common areas. The problems usually start when the temperature begins to warm up after a cold spell or heavy snowfall. Water suddenly streams out of broken pipes, or snow melts and then freezes when the temperature drops at night. Whatever the circumstances, managers and board members can attest to the amount of work involved responding to owners, sorting through damages and injuries, dealing with insurance, and trying to understand legal obligations for water and slip-and-fall incidents. Most of us would love to find a magic wand that we could wave to make these problems disappear. Unfortunately, magic is not a reliable solution.
Associations can best position themselves for dealing with slip-and-fall situations by planning ahead and communicating with owners along the way. If your association is not sure what responsibility it has to remove snow and ice hazards from common areas, here are some risk management steps to help.
Review the association’s governing documents to determine responsibilities for snow removal. Different communities have different responsibilities, and your documents give direction. A condominium community may have the general obligation to remove snow from the common elements, while townhome documents may only require the association to take care of parking lots. A failure to comply with the covenants could result in claims of breach by the association, so confirming responsibilities up-front is crucial.