Are You Legally Required to Shovel Your Sidewalk?

Ken Stewart/Stringer/Getty Images
Ken Stewart/Stringer/Getty Images / Ken Stewart/Stringer/Getty Images

When there's snow piling up outside your front door, you may be desperate for an excuse not to shovel it. Unfortunately, not owning the property immediately surrounding your home doesn't automatically get you off the hook. Depending on where you live, you still may have to shovel your sidewalk after a snowstorm.

Sidewalks are typically the property of the municipality, but that doesn't mean the local government is responsible for shoveling them. Many towns and cities in regions with snowy winters expect residents to keep the sidewalks in front of their buildings clear of snow. Neglecting this duty could land you with a fine plus a bill for snow removal. For property owners, the cost could be even higher if your snowy sidewalk puts passing pedestrians at risk. If someone slips and falls on a walkway you're responsible for shoveling, you may be liable for damages. According to General Services Corporations, such cases have spurred negligence lawsuits for as much as $300,000.

If you own property, you can probably assume that any snow that accumulates on the sidewalk outside it is your responsibility. But what about renters? If you don't know whose job it is to shovel the snow outside your building, check your lease. Your landlord may have passed on that duty to the tenant. Usually this clause only applies to single-family rentals. If you live in a building with multiple units, you can probably get away with staying warm under the covers while the snow outside piles up. For more assurance, you can check each state's laws for shoveling sidewalks here.

Shoveling snow may be unavoidable where you live, but it doesn't have to be tedious. Here's a snow-shoveling alternative that's fast and fun.

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