Snow and Ice Removal: Duty of Property Owners

Greg MonfortonBefore you know it, the snow will be falling, the wind will be blowing and you will want to be safe and indoors, curled up in front of the fireplace with a good book . . but . . just before you do that, maybe you'd better check how much snow has fallen on your sidewalks. Although you're not expecting company, you never know when someone will come up to your door to deliver a flyer, or walk past your house to exercise their dog.

If you own your home, there is a bylaw that says you are responsible for clearing the sidewalk in front of and around it.

If you rent your house, you and the owner are both responsible. However, you may have a lease that says whose duty it will be. You have 12 hours from the time the snow falls or the ice accumulates to clear the sidewalks around a residence.

If removing the snow or ice would likely damage the sidewalk, a safe alternative can be used. For example, sand or salt can be spread on the walkway to keep people from slipping.

The main reason you want to keep your walkways clear is, of course, to make sure no one hurts themselves in a slip and fall accident.

But there are also other reasons for getting out the shovel or snow blower. For one thing, if you ignore an icy sidewalk, or let the snow pile up, the City could clear your walks for you and charge you for its work. Or, you could be charged with a bylaw offence and face a fine of up to $2,000. Also, if someone does slip and fall and consequently suffers a personal injury on your property, they could sue you for their injuries. This whole topic of occupiers liability will be covered in a future column.

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