Shovelling snow on a cold winter day is far from what many consider to be “fun”. Many homeowners know that they don’t own the sidewalk, the city does. So on the coldest of days, it’s easy to question whether it is legally your job to do it.
Like many legal questions, the answer is not as simple as it may seem. That’s why Beckett is here to offer guidance on the issue.
Who is Responsible?
Since sidewalks are owned by the city, it’s easy to assume that homeowners across the province are not responsible for their upkeep. In fact, according to the Ontario Occupiers’ Liability Act, the city is responsible for the sidewalk’s maintenance, not the property owner.
Most municipalities, however, have by-laws in place requiring the homeowner to clear their sidewalks within a given period of time. London, Toronto, Hamilton, and Ottawa are just a few of the municipalities that have enacted these public ordinances.
In London, Ontario, homeowners have until 10:00 am each day to clear ice and snow from their sidewalk, as long as it is not a holiday. The by-law designates the property owner’s sidewalk as the portion that is within their lot lines.
Under these by-laws, property owners can be fined for failing to clear their sidewalks. However, ultimate liability lies with the municipality, as they own the sidewalk.
When Am I Responsible?
It’s not often that a homeowner is held liable for damages because of an uncleared sidewalk. If the property owner has created a hazard, such as a dripping gutter or hose that creates ice, and someone becomes injured, the owner can be held liable for damages. On the other hand, businesses have also been held liable when they do not clear the sidewalk necessary to access their building.
What about Rental Properties?
Under section 26 of Ontario Regulation 517, the exterior of the property must be maintained by the landlord — including ice and snow removal.
However, a landlord can provide monetary compensation in return for the tenant assuming snow-clearing responsibilities. This must be done contractually and is akin to a landlord hiring a third-party snow removal service
How Can You Mitigate Risk?
It’s always best to shovel your sidewalk, especially within the timeframe allotted by your municipality’s by-laws. Work diligently to keep snow, ice, and other hazards from building up on the sidewalk within your lot lines.
Moreover, when the ice does form, use sand or salt to help remove it, and make sure you do not create additional hazards, such as the dripping gutter discussed above.
If you or someone you know has tripped, slipped, or fallen as a result of a hazardous condition on someone else's property, there could be grounds for a lawsuit. Contact the experts at Beckett Personal Injury for a free consultation of your rights.
Published on December 18, 2020