Record breaking temperatures aside, arrangements must soon be made for the removal of the snow that will make this year's summer a distant memory. Today's column will focus on some of the issues that should be addressed in a contract for snow removal in an association.
The contract should specify when the work will commence. This is generally stated in terms of the number of inches of accumulated snow. For larger snowfalls, the association should consider requiring the contractor to remove snow after each successive designated accumulation with a final clearing upon the end of the snowfall. The contract could specify whether all areas are to be cleared on a continuous basis, or whether only certain designated areas are to be continuously cleared, with the remaining areas to be cleared only upon the conclusion of the snowfall. A snow removal completion deadline should be included with respect to night, day and continuous snowfalls.
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The contract should identify which streets, driveways, sidewalks and other areas, such as garbage Dumpster access areas or roofs of buildings, are to be cleared. If there is a likelihood of misunderstanding, those areas that are not to be cleared should be recited as well. If any areas are to be cleared by hand shovel or snowplow, this should be described. It is useful to attach a map of the association to the contract which identifies the areas to be cleared of snowfall. The order in which areas of the association are to be cleared should be indicated. For example, the association may desire certain roads to be cleared before others, and all roads before driveways.
To prevent damage to asphalt and other surfaces, the association should consider specifying the distance of the bottom of the plow blade from the ground.
The contract should address where snow is to be stored on the property, or whether it is to be removed from the property entirely. If on the property, it should not be stored in such a manner that will obstruct the vision of pedestrians or vehicle operators or obstruct fire hydrants, mailboxes, garage doors, or similar items.
In some instances, and particularly in those associations with large areas to be cleared, the contract should describe the type of equipment that will be used by the contractor, as well as the size of the crew that will be dispatched to the association.
Whether salt, ice melt or sand is to be applied, and, if so, when and where should be described. In making a decision regarding which, if any, material to use, the board should consider any potential negative effect on concrete, plant materials or other areas.
The contract must designate the fee arrangement between the association and contractor. Two methods are generally utilized: "flat-fee" basis and "per push" basis. Under the "flat-fee" basis, the association pays a designated sum which covers all services rendered for the term of the contract. The fee may be payable in a lump sum or in monthly installments. Under the "per push" basis the association pays the contractor whenever conditions meet the specifications of the contract and services are rendered. There are risks associated with each method.
If the association selects the "flat-fee" basis and there is below-anticipated snowfall, it may spend more than necessary for snow removal services. If the "on call" basis is selected and there is above anticipated snowfall, the association may spend considerably more than the "flat-fee" alternative. How's your crystal ball?
The contractor should be required to obtain, prior to commencement of the work, appropriate insurance naming the association as an additional insured. Such coverage may include general liability, vehicle, property damage and workmen's compensation insurance coverage. The association's insurance agent/broker should be contacted to discuss the appropriate policies and levels of coverage.
Some of the additional matters that should be addressed in the contract are: whether any of the contractor's equipment will be stored on the property; fault/termination provisions; procedures to be followed to repair damage to turf or other areas caused by the contractor; and whether the contractor agrees to provide indemnification to the association in connection with claims for damages in connection with its services.
The contents of a particular contract depend on the needs of the specific association. The snow removal contract, as with any other significant contract, should be reviewed by the association's attorney prior to execution. The sooner that snow removal service is arranged and a contract executed for next season, the sooner you can join your fellow unit owners in the pool!
• David M. Bendoff is an attorney with Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit in Buffalo Grove. Send questions for the column to him at CondoTalk@ksnlaw.com. The firm provides legal service to condominium, townhouse, homeowner associations and housing cooperatives. This column is not a substitute for consultation with legal counsel.