Avoid legal woes: why you must remove snow from your sidewalk

October 15, 2014

As the snow piles up, it’s tempting to stay indoors and not shovel your sidewalks. However, not shovelling can cost you time, money and put you at risk for legal trouble.

Avoid legal woes: why you must remove snow from your sidewalk

There are different regulations concerning snow removal in different cities across Canada. Some cities have no snow removal ordinances, while others have strict guidelines that must be followed or you risk a fine.

For specific information for your community, check your city’s website or call City Hall.

Don't get dinged with fines: know when and where to remove snow

The homeowners’ association for your neighbourhood is also a good source for snow removal information. Keep in mind that condo, apartment or strata owners may be responsible for snow clearance of public areas, such as sidewalks, pathways and trails that adjoin their private property.

  • Make sure you ask not only whether you are required to shovel your sidewalks but also how soon the work must be done. Some cities require property owners to clear sidewalks within 12 hours, while others give up to 24 hours.
  • In contrast, business owners may be required to clear the sidewalks in front of their property within four hours of a snowfall – which is both good for business and avoiding fines.

Your legal liability for slips and falls on sidewalks

As a property owner, you are legally responsible for the safe passage of anyone entering your premises. Consult an expert in your community, such as a personal injury lawyer, city official or public security agent, as to what liability laws apply to commercial and residential property owners in your area.

Help for those who can’t shovel their own sidewalks

If you are elderly or disabled and snow shovelling or the cost of professional snow removal presents a hardship, your community may have resources to help you.

  • For instance, elderly and disabled residents of the City of Windsor can enroll in the Snow Angels Program, which recruits volunteers for snow removal. Check your city’s website or call the city’s snow removal office for details on such programs.

Ready to shovel your own sidewalk? Take it easy!

If you have to shovel snow from your driveway and sidewalks around your home, always remember to:

  • Get a head start: Sprinkle sidewalks and driveways with ice melt and/or salt. This will help melt ice and snow as it falls and prevent an icy base that is difficult to remove and treacherous to walk on from forming.
  • Stretch: Take a few moments to limber up before you begin to reduce the risk of pulled muscles or more serious health complications.
  • Bundle up: Dress in layers: it will keep you warm and help you stay flexible and mobile while you shovel.
  • Start early: Shovel your property in intervals as the snow falls. This way your shovel loads will be lighter and require less effort. It also prevents snow and ice from forming a bottom layer of hazardous and hard-to-remove ice.
  • Coat your shovel: Spraying your shovel with non-stick cooking oil will keep snow from sticking to your shovel.
  • Be a good neighbour: When you’re finished shovelling your sidewalk or driveway, take a minute to check on your neighbours, especially if they’re elderly and can’t clear their own sidewalk.

There are a number of advantages to shovelling your sidewalk and driveway during wintry weather. Not only will you get a good workout, you’ll avoid city fines and legal liability from slips and falls. You’ll also help keep your home and neighbourhood accessible in the event of an emergency.

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