Snow Clearing and the Law: What You Need to Know

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Snow, sleet, freezing rain... There’s no end to what falls from the winter sky! Don’t let the weather make you lose sight of your responsibilities when it comes to snow clearing.

Owners, clear your doorways and stairs.

Make sure your property is safe for visitors. It’s your responsibility to clear the snow and, if necessary, spread sand or salt as soon as possible after a storm. This prevents accidents and lawsuits.

Someone who gets hurt falling on an icy staircase can take legal action against you for not keeping the stairs free of ice. If the injuries are serious or permanent, the amounts involved in a lawsuit can be quite high. This is one reason people get insurance.

Tenants, talk to your landlord.

Who is responsible for clearing snow: the tenant or the landlord? Check what your lease says. But even if your landlord is responsible for clearing the snow, you still have a duty to tell the landlord about steps, parking areas or entryways that are dangerous. If you say nothing, you can be held partly responsible for accidents. 

Shovelling snow... not in my yard!

When you shovel your property, think twice before dumping the snow on your neighbour’s parking spot. The law says everybody has to accept the normal inconveniences of their neighbourhood. But neighbours also have to do their best to avoid causing each other problems. This is part of being a good neighbour.

Many municipalities have rules against shovelling snow onto the street, the sidewalk, bike paths and medians (areas in the middle of roads). Rules can differ from one city or borough to the next. Fines can be quite high, so it’s best to check the rules in your area.  

Streets and sidewalks are the city’s responsibility.

Municipalities are responsible for clearing snow from streets and sidewalks. They must make a reasonable effort to make them safe for people. This means having a snow-clearing plan and enough employees and equipment to do the job. But with the weather we have, it’s impossible for sidewalks to be safe and clear of snow all the time.