Several local news outlets have been reporting that the City of Buffalo and some suburbs are going to crack down on property owners who have neglected to clear their walkways of snow/ice. Each municipality typically has their own punishments for the offense. This usually results in fines, and in the City of Buffalo’s case, they can even go as far to hire someone to remove the snow and then charge the bill back to the property owner. This month alone, per WGRZ, there have been more than 700 fines to those who have failed to clear their sidewalks in the City of Buffalo.
This winter season has been especially snowy (over 100″ to date) and frigidly cold. In fact, the temperature has risen above 32º F only a handful of times this year. While it has been difficult to stay on top of snow removal, it’s important for homeowners to maintain safe conditions for those who utilize the public walkways on their property. Relative to a fine from your respective municipality, the potential liability exposure is much greater.
Property owners are responsible for maintaining their property and removing hazards. This extends to public areas such as sidewalks. In order to avoid adverse conditions, most jurisdictions allow the clearing of ice and snow to be completed in a “reasonable amount of time.” If a “reasonable amount of time” passes, and someone were to slip, the homeowner could be found negligent and liable.
While homeowner’s insurance typically covers premises liability, it’s wise to double check you policy. Exposing your self to a liability claim, or worse a lawsuit, can have long-term consequences on both your insurance premium and your ability to obtain insurance from other carriers. If you are a landlord, it’s important all walkways are cleared of ice and snow. Either way, it is wise to make sure you have adequate liability protection.
One of Buffalo’s nicknames is the City of Good Neighbors. While maintaining a clear sidewalk can protect you legally, it provides your neighbors a safe place to travel.