Sidewalk Snow Removal and Liability

Q. I own a 2 family home and spend most of the winter in Florida. My tenant usually shovels the snow while I am away. This year he told me he will be traveling for much of the winter and likely will not be around. I am concerned about any liability I may have if no one shovels the snow off the sidewalk. After all, it is the City’s sidewalk and not mine. Do I have reason for concern? -Tom O.

A. Tom, while you are enjoying the Florida rays, be sure someone has a shovel ready for your sidewalk! The NYC Code requires that snow on a sidewalk be removed by the adjoining landowner within 4 hours after the snowfall stops. If the snow stops between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., you have until the morning to start the removal. The code also provides that if the snow has turned to ice and needs time to thaw, you may place ash, sand, sawdust or salt down until it melts enough where removal is capable. Failing to do so could result in fines between $100 and $350.

Snow and Your Premises Liability

Additionally, if someone gets hurt on your property from your failure to remove the snow, you can be sued. This wasn’t always the case though. In 2003, thanks to “Tort Reform”, NYC was able to shift the responsibility of cleaning and maintaining sidewalks from themselves to the adjoining landowners. The law imposes upon the owners of property abutting the sidewalk the affirmative duty to maintain the sidewalk -including removal of snow and ice- and makes the owner liable for injuries arising out of its breach of this duty. Only one, two and three-family residential homes that are in whole or in part, owner-occupied and used exclusively for residential purposes are excluded from maintaining the public sidewalks. Snow removal is important to keep slip and fall accidents from happening and ultimately, avoiding others from getting injured on your property.

Keith Sullivan is a partner with Sullivan & Galleshaw, LLP and an adjunct law professor at Pace University School of Law and Brooklyn Law School and a lecturer for the NYS bar exam. He can be seen frequently providing legal analysis on various national and local networks such as FOX News, CNN, HLN, NBC and MSNBC.

Sullivan’s Court provides general legal information only, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of the negligence or intentional wrongdoing of another, contact the knowledgeable New York City personal injury law firm of Sullivan & Galleshaw at (718) 843-0300 to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible personal injury lawsuit.

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