Building a snowman in the garden – make winter fun. But the fun is over when the sidewalk in front of your house is covered with snow or ice. Residents must clear snow not only on their property but also on the public sidewalk in front of their houses or office buildings. Cities and municipalities set this snow removal responsibility out in their local ordinances. They determine when residents must evacuate.

When to Clear the Sidewalk?

Winter maintenance of roads and streets is actually the responsibility of the cities and municipalities. But they usually only deal with traffic lanes. The law places the responsibility for ensuring road safety on sidewalks on the residents. The specific rules vary from place to place, but the basic rules are generally the same. If the snow stops falling between:

  • 7:00 am and 4:49 pm – you must clear within four hours.
  • 5:00 pm and 8:49 pm – you must remove within fourteen hours.
  • 9:00 pm and 6:59 am – you must clear by 11:00 am—the next day.

Fines, Damages and Compensation

Anyone who does not respect the rules on snow clearance has to dig deep into their pockets. Many municipalities impose fines of hundreds of dollars, sometimes thousands. If a pedestrian falls and gets hurt, it can be even more expensive. Those who have not cleaned or removed the snow properly have to pay compensation and fines.

However, this does not apply if the accident happened outside the mandatory evacuation period.

Slipping Road Accidents – Who is Liable?

Pedestrians usually bear the bulk of the responsibility when they fall on a slippery road. This is particularly true when it is clear that the footbridge has yet to be cleared of snow. This also applies to the person who caused the accident. For example, children and pensioners may be entitled to higher compensation.

The owner can put up a sign saying, “Privat Road – Access at Your Own Risk”. Such a notice does not relieve the owner of the obligation to remove the snow, but the person to whom the message is addressed may be the person who is partly responsible for the consequences of the victim.

Winter Service and Tenancy – Who Has to Clear the Snow?

In general, the landlord is obliged to clear the snow. The tenant may waive this obligation if the tenancy agreement provides so.

Often, large buildings with multiple tenants will use a commercial snow removal company to take care of the work, like removing snow from the property. Be sure to check your lease agreement to see if this applies to your building.

Whoever is named responsible in the lease agreement should clear sidewalks of snow and ice without delay. If frost is too hard to remove, you can sprinkle sand or rock salt on top to make it safer to walk on.