Condominium snow removal: should you DIY or contract out?

October 16, 2014

Managing a condominium means providing snow removal in common areas. But should you hire a snow removal contractor? Or is it better to do it yourself and save money?

Condominium snow removal: should you DIY or contract out?

If you’re the owner, manager or on the board of a condominium tenants' association, you’re probably familiar with the headaches a large snowfall can bring: The endless complaints. The need to clear common areas. Risk of liability for slips and falls. And that's just the start.

Yes, snow removal is an unfortunate necessity for condo managers. The question is: do you handle snow removal in-house, or do you hire a snow removal contractor? Each choice has its benefits and pitfalls.

Using your own staff for snow removal

If you want to make 100 percent sure that clearing is done at a particular time in the morning, there’s nothing like using the folks who depend on you for a weekly paycheque. Also, you won’t have to go through a troublesome bidding process or sign any contracts that may prove to be bad decisions.

In the end, will you save money?

It’s debatable for several reasons:

  • You’ll have to buy and store your own snow removal equipment and supplies, such as rock salt and de-icer.
  • If you want backup equipment, you’ll have to spend even more.
  • You’ll have to hire extra workers, train them, and provide them with worker’s compensation and insurance.
  • Any liability for inadequately cleared areas will fall squarely on your shoulders.

Hiring a contractor for condo snow removal

Conversely, if you hire a contractor to handle your snow removal:

  • They will share at least some of the liability should a resident or guest slip and fall on a cleared common area.
  • You won’t have to spend money on extra workers, equipment and supplies.

However, snow removal contractors can be expensive because you will have:

  • Less control over exactly what time your common areas get cleared.
  • To go to all the trouble of bidding the job out — which means some paperwork.

Steps for hiring a snow removal contractor

If you do decide to hire a snow removal operation to clear your condominium, there are several points to remember:

  • Get an identical estimate from each bidder that is specific to the work you want done, and make sure they each state a “per unit of snow” price.
  • Make sure each bidder is compliant with your city’s ordinances regarding snow removal.
  • Have a firm understanding of all costs involved. Will the contractor supply rock salt and de-icer, for instance? Does it cost extra if they have to come back during the same snow event and clear again?
  • Have clear written conditions for how and under what circumstances either party can terminate the contract. Upon hiring the contractor, share these conditions with the board.
  • Ask for references!

Foster a relationship

Building a relationship with a responsible snow removal outfit should benefit both parties. As you assure the contractor of your continued business, the contractor will provide you with better service in time as he gets to know the particulars of clearing your property.

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