Snow and Ice Removal: What are the Laws?
Most of us have one – the neighbor who never seems to shovel their sidewalk. Each winter, the patch in front of their house becomes a danger zone of snow and ice, and you worry that you're going to slip and fall each time you walk past. What would happen if you did take a fall? Who would be responsible for your injuries? What are the laws when it comes to clearing walkways?
Whether you're a homeowner, landlord, renter, or tenant, everyone has a responsibility to prevent snow, sleet, and freezing rain from causing devastating injuries on our walkways and sidewalks. Here's what you need to know when it comes to snow and ice removal:
Snow and Ice Removal Ordinances
- All municipalities have different ordinances. In Pittsburgh, you have a maximum of 24 hours to clear sidewalks and walkways. If you fail to do so and someone reports you, you may receive a citation and face fines.
- However, this doesn't mean you should wait 24 hours to pull out that shovel. The city expects you to clear your property within a "reasonable" amount of time. If you had the opportunity to treat sidewalks and walkways before 24 hours was up but didn't, you can still be held responsible if someone is injured.
- Homeowners are responsible for any injuries that occur on their property due to snow or ice.
- Even if a homeowner is out of town, it's still their responsibility to make sure their sidewalks and driveway are free of snow and ice. If you're going to be out of town during the winter months, arrange for someone to shovel and salt for you ahead of time.
- Homeowner's insurance will cover the costs of injuries up to the policy limits, but the homeowner is responsible for any costs that exceed their coverage.
- Also make sure to check downspouts. Snow and ice can melt and drain out of gutters and freeze later on, forming icy patches and icicles.
Renters, Tenants, and Landlords
- Landlords may be responsible for clearing snow and ice at apartment complexes and at buildings with multiple units.
- Two or three unit properties fall into a legal gray area – either a landlord or a tenant may be responsible depending on other circumstances.
- If you rent or lease a single family home, you're the one responsible for taking care of snow and ice.
- Always check your rental agreement to find out about your landlord's policy for snow and ice removal.
Even if you're not expecting visitors, make sure your walkways are safe. If a postal worker or delivery person slips and falls on your property, you can be held responsible.