Massachusetts law about snow and ice

Laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on legal responsibilities for snow and ice in Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.40, § 21 (2), (3), and (4) Towns may create bylaws relative to snow and ice on buildings and sidewalks

MGL c.84, § 15 A county, city, town, or person obliged to repair may be liable for injury or damage from defects on ways

MGL c.84, § 17 A county, city, or town is not liable for injury or damage from snow or ice on a public way if the place where the accident happened was otherwise reasonably safe and convenient for travelers

MGL c.84, §§ 18-20 A person must notify the county, city, or town of injury or damage from snow or ice on a public way within 30 days

MGL c.84, § 21 A person must notify the owner of private property of injury or damage from snow or ice on their premises within 30 days

MGL c.85, § 5 Cities and towns may require removal of snow and ice from sidewalks : penalties

MGL c.85, § 6 Towns may accept this section, remove snow and ice from its permanent sidewalks, and assess the whole or any part of the cost of removal to the abutters

MGL c.85, § 7 Abutters may procure an exemption from an assessment by stipulating that they will remove snow and ice from the sidewalk, on which their estates abut, at such times and in such manner as the appropriate municipal officers shall direct

MGL c.85, § 7A Persons may not store chemicals used for the removal of snow or ice in such a manner or place as to subject a water supply or groundwater supply to the risk of contamination

MGL c.85, § 7B Depositing snow on state highways

MGL c.90, § 19K Vehicles can only have plows attached for the purpose of snow removal between October 15 and May 15, except under specific circumstances

Massachusetts regulations

105 CMR 410.260 Safe condition: responsibility for clearing walk and stairs (landlord-tenant)

310 CMR 22.21(2) Wellhead protection: regulating the storage of chemicals used for the removal of snow or ice

780 CMR 1001.3.1 Building code 9th edition: maintenance of exterior stairs and fire escapes
"Exterior stairways and fire escapes shall be kept free of snow and ice..."

Complaints regarding snow

In Massachusetts' cities and towns, the local Department of Public Works (DPW) and the local Board of Health (BOH) work together to address environmental and public health complaints about town services and operations that are essential to a neighborhood's quality of life, such as street sweeping and repair, snow removal, sanitation, sewer repair and maintenance and garbage pickup and disposal.

Who should I contact?

Contact your local DPW for complaints about your town's services. Many Massachusetts towns have dedicated DPW staff to assist with citizen issues and concerns.

In addition, your local Board of Health may also be able to address concerns relative to your town's services and operations, in addition to complaints related to landlord-tenant issues.

Most laws about snow and ice removal are municipal laws, so check your city or town ordinances, and contact your local municipality to file a complaint or make an inquiry about the law. To see if your town has an ordinance or bylaw regarding snow and ice removal, please look at the Massachusetts city and town ordinances and by-laws

Selected cases

Goreham v. Martins, 485 Mass. 54 (2020)
Details the "evolution of our common law regarding negligence liability for slip and falls on snow and ice." Provides a lengthy discussion of the applicability of quiet enjoyment and the implied warranty of habitability to snow accumulation in the driveway of a rental property. A "tenant may not be awarded personal injury damages on a claim for breach of the implied warranty of habitability arising from a landlord's failure to keep common areas reasonably free of snow and ice. "

Papadopoulos v. Target Corp., 457 Mass. 368 (2010)
This case abolished the legal distinction between natural and unnatural accumulations of snow and ice.

Web sources

The abolition of the natural accumulation defense in snow and ice cases: an overview of Papadopoulos v. Target Corp, 5 Boston Bar Journal 6, Winter, 2011.

Clear snow from your car or get pulled over, state police warn drivers,, March 2018.
"In Massachusetts, police can use a couple of statutes to enforce snow-clearing. ...officers can issue a $40 fine for impeded operation if a driver has obstructed windows and a $200 fine for driving with an unsecured load, which can include heavy sheets of snow or ice on a car's roof."

Review of Massachusetts snow removal laws and town ordinances, Massachusetts Real Estate Law Blog, January 2018.

Rules on clearing snow for Boston residents, City of Boston, December 2021.
"Don’t shovel or push snow into the street. If you do, the City may fine you."

Snow disposal guidance, Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection.
This guide will help communities and businesses dispose of plowed snow without harming the environment. The guide includes a link to an interactive map to locate snow disposal sites.

State of emergency information, Exec. Office of Public Safety and Security. 
The Governor's declaration of a State of Emergency does not automatically ban travel or close businesses. Many businesses have contractual agreements with their employees regarding who does/does not have to report to work when a State of Emergency is issued.

Print sources

The law of premises liability:  tort liability of the owner or occupier of real property for harm inflicted upon persons while on the premises and for harm inflicted by persons who become intoxicated while on the premises, 4th ed., LexisNexis, loose-leaf. Chapter 7:  The slip-and-fall case.

Massachusetts tort law manual, 3rd ed., MCLE, 2017 with supplement, loose-leaf. Chapter 9: Slip and fall.

“Papadopoulos v. Target: finally melting away the century-old natural accumulation standard in Massachusetts," by Kayla M. Savasta, 18 Suffolk  journal of trial and appellate advocacy 254 (2013).

Premises liability, 3rd ed., West, 2002 with supplement. Volume 3, Chapter 52:  Ice and snow.

Premises liability law and practice, Matthew Bender, loose-leaf. Volume 2, Chapter 8A:  Slip & fall injuries; Volume 5, Chapter 30, Part A: forms: slip & fall cases.

Slip and fall practice, 2nd ed., James Pub., 2012 paperback. Chapter 22: Falls on ice and snow.

Slips, trips, missteps, and their consequences, 2nd ed., Lawyers & Judges Pub. Co., 2007.

Tort law, 3rd ed. (Mass. Practice v. 37A) Thomson/West, 2005 with supplement. Chapter 21: Owners and possessors of land.

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Last updated: February 21, 2024

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