Who is Responsible for Shoveling Sidewalks?

shoveling snow

While snow removal is far from anyone’s favorite task, it has to be done. This is especially true after heavy snowfall since sidewalks covered in snow and ice are major safety hazards. But who is really responsible for shoveling sidewalks?

The answer depends on whether you own or rent your home. Here are some key differences.

If you own

As a homeowner, you are responsible for shoveling sidewalks on your property. Homeowners are usually held liable if someone is injured after falling on obstructed walkways.

One exception is often condo or co-op associations that pool their money to hire a snow removal service. If you live in a condo or co-op, ask the board how snow removal is handled for both the driveways and the walkway to your unit.

If you rent

The person responsible for shoveling sidewalks can be either the tenant or the landlord. Check your rental agreement since no two landlords are the same.

Here is how three different rental arrangements typically work:

  • You rent or lease a single-family home: You are likely responsible for shoveling sidewalks. In some cases, renters can work out a discount with their landlord in exchange for taking care of snow removal.
  • You rent in a retirement community: The community management organization is typically responsible for snow removal.
  • You rent in an apartment complex: The landlord should be responsible for snow removal. However, in some instances the renter is responsible for clearing personal walkways, so be sure to read the fine print of your rental agreement.

If you are responsible, it’s worth finding out how long you have to clear your snow. Some places have laws setting time frames by which snow must be cleared. For example, Pittsburgh residents are expected to remove snow within 24 hours. My small town of Girard, Pennsylvania, is less generous: You’re responsible for shoveling sidewalks within three hours after a snowfall ends!

Expectations vary by state, city and township, so review your local snow removal ordinances to avoid having to brave the cold and pay a fine or receive a citation on top of that.

Your homeowner’s insurance generally covers you if someone injured on your property files a claim. Yet there are times when the claim amount exceeds basic coverage limits. This could leave you paying for damages out of pocket.

You can protect yourself with Personal Catastrophe and Liability coverage, an extra layer of coverage over and above your auto and homeowners policies. An insurance professional like an Erie Insurance Agent can tell you more about these important coverages.

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