Notes From the Legal Hotline: January 2023

December 23, 2022

- By The MAR Legal Team

Q: Who has the legal obligation to remove snow and ice from a property?

A: The State Sanitary Code requires owners to keep all means of egress free from obstruction, including snow and ice. Property owners owe a duty of reasonable care to visitors of the property and may be liable for injuries caused to a visitor due to the failure to remove snow and ice. This duty extends to landlords, who are responsible for maintaining all entrances and exits to the property in a safe, operable condition at all times. No lease provision may negate this responsibility.

Only in situations where a tenant has an independent means of egress not shared with other tenants and the responsibility for snow removal is included in a written lease agreement may the landlord shift this obligation to the tenant. Placing this responsibility on the tenant, however, may not absolve the landlord, as the owner of the property, from liability if someone suffers a personal injury on the property due to snow and ice. The landlord remains responsible for maintaining all shared walkways, exterior staircases, and doorways free of snow and ice.

Property owners listing their properties for sale in the winter months must also take care to ensure that driveways, walkways, and stairs are free from snow and ice when showings, inspections, appraisals, and walkthroughs are occurring. REALTORS® should not take on the responsibility of snow removal on behalf of their sellers because they may be exposing themselves and their clients to liability for injuries.

REALTORS should advise their clients to:

(1) ensure they have adequate insurance coverage;

(2) determine whether those hired to remove snow and ice have insurance; and
(3) be vigilant when there is newly fallen snow, melting or freezing.

If complete clearing is not possible, warning signs may be appropriate. Clients that have specific questions regarding their duty to clear snow should consult their attorney.

Q: Can a team be paid their commissions through an LLC?

A: In most circumstances paying commissions to a team through an LLC would be illegal. A broker may only pay fees and commissions from real estate transactions to an affiliated salesperson, a broker, or a business entity with a corporate broker’s license. In order for a corporation to become licensed, a partner or officer must hold an individual broker’s license and act as the representative of that corporation.

The challenge for teams wanting to incorporate in some fashion is the subsequent disbursement of commissions to the appropriate team members. Any team member who holds a salesperson’s license can only be compensated by the broker with whom they are affiliated. It would be illegal for those commissions to be disbursed to a salesperson by another broker. An incorporated team also raises questions about whether salespersons within the team are affiliating with multiple brokers, which is prohibited by license law.


Written by: Justin Davidson, General Counsel; Catherine Taylor, Associate Counsel; and Jonathan Schreiber, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel.

Services provided through the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, by providing this service, assumes no actual or implied responsibility for any improper use of responses to questions through this service.  The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® will not be legally responsible for any potential misrepresentations or errors made by providing this service. For more information regarding these topics authorized callers should contact the MAR legal hotline at 800-370-5342 or e-mail at