Friday, January 8, 2010

Removing snow outside your house

I've been hearing and reading about this a lot lately with our snowy weather and wonder what people think. In the UK, it seems to be taken for granted that if you clear the pavements outside your house you are liable to be sued if anyone slips and falls. I think that's absolutely crazy! The people at the BBC have obviously noticed this discussion on forums and twitter too because they've got an article about it in BBC News Magazine: Is it your civic duty to clear snow? Local authorities in the UK are responsible for gritting and salting public roads and pavements, but what about your own path and the pavement in front of your home? Is it your civic duty to keep them clear for others? In fact, you are taking a theoretical legal risk if you clear the pavement in front of your home. It's worth noting a glimmer of sense in the article: But, Paul Kitson, a partner with leading personal injury solicitors Russell Jones & Walker, explains that a claimant would have to show you had acted either maliciously or carelessly, and that such a case would often be tricky in practice. So there you have it. It seems like a crazy country if people have to be afraid to clear their pavements (sidewalks) in front of their property in case they are sued. I just don't understand this mentality at all. As the BBC article points out, it's your legal duty to clear your sidewalks in Minneapolis (Minnesota). So if you live in the UK, what do you do? Do you go ahead and clear the pavement in front of your house, even though there is a theoretical legal risk? Or do you leave the snow and ice there? What about where you live? What are the laws regarding snow removal outside your property? Update: Edited to add a link to an article in The Telegraph on Saturday 9 Jan, 2010 Healthy and safety experts warn: don't clear icy pavements, you could get sued Pavements are being left covered in ice because of “ludicrous” laws that put home owners and businesses at risk of being sued if they try to clear them.

8 comments:

  1. The town I live in says householders can be fined for not clearing the sidewalks along their property. In practice, I know of no one who has ever been fined.

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  2. Interesting - it doesn't do much good if it isn't enforced.

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  3. I know from 25 years' experience in US that It's a real pain in the ass to clear sidewalk after you get home from work, but better than creating pedestrian hazard as snow compacts and ices over. Wouldn't be surprised if councils start to pass by-laws soon, not least to cut costs to emergency services.
    I also know from experience that it was enforced in my town!

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  4. I'm from Minneapolis so I know how much hard work it is to shovel sidewalks but as you say, it's better than leaving the snow and creating a pedestrian hazard. (And I also knew there was a fine to face if it wasn't kept clear).

    They love to fine people for just about everything in this country so you could be right. I wouldn't be surprised either.

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  5. I've never lived where I had a sidewalk in the US, but had friends that did, and if they didn't have it cleared within a certain number of hours after the snow stopped falling, they would get fined (by the city, not a homeowners group, so I assume that it did get enforced).

    I live in the city here in the UK now, and I have been amazed these last few weeks by the fact that no one has shoveled any snow or treated any ice on the sidewalks in my neighborhood. Not even the businesses! We have to walk to the grocery store several times a week, and it is a dangerous trip, sliding all the way on the black ice. We've only gotten about a half inch total, if that, and we're practically completely housebound because of it.

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  6. Hi Jenny - yes, it's a huge contrast between the two countries, with regards attitudes to snow removal. This is a very unusual winter here though so it isn't normally such a big concern like it is now.

    I've been hearing more and more news reports about people becoming housebound like you said because of the snow and ice on pavements, especially parents with young children and babies in pushchairs (strollers). I know the pavements are all snow-covered in our town too and walking anywhere is a very slow and hazardous activity.

    It would obviously be so much better for everyone if people automatically cleared the pavement in front of their property but it won't happen unless attitudes change - and also people neeed reassurance that they won't have legal issues if they choose to clear the pavement.

    It used to be that councils would spread grit/sand on pavements to make them safe but I think there is a shortage of sand so now all the pavements are treacherous.

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  7. My wife and I just took a walk into town to mail a letter and buy a few supplies and, four days after the snow, the pavements are still treacherous. Not only that, the mailbox, which is right outside of the Post Office, has not been emptied in four days, either. It was so full we had to find a different one. Britain is a lovely place, but boy do they have some loopy laws.

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  8. Hi Mike - it's deplorable how the snow and ice on all the pavements is affecting everyone and all because of some "loopy laws" as you say.

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