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Do you have to shovel your sidewalk?

Despite hopes that winter would end early Chicago, Illinois, that hasn’t happened. The windy city has been the cold city, much to the distress of residents who dream of summer. Due to the ongoing low temperatures, there may yet be snowfalls before the weather improves. Snow can result in slippery sidewalks and corresponding premises liability. Let’s address a few questions about that.

Do sidewalks have to be kept clear?

Yes. The Municipal Code of Chicago declares it to be so, and violations of that code can result in financial penalties, the preclusion of which is worth the time it takes to shovel.

Who has to do the shoveling?

Owners of properties have the ultimate responsibility, but they may share those responsibilities by contract with the occupants / tenants / lessees of the properties. This should be clearly spelled out in the contracts and unambiguously clarified when the contracts are signed so that everyone understands whose responsibility keeping walks clear of snow is. If it is contractually designated as the responsibility of the occupants / tenants / lessees of a property, they can be fined by the owner for failing to live up to that responsibility. If it isn’t addressed in the contract, however, the responsibility is the owner’s by default.

Can just a little bit of shoveling be done?

No. According to the afore-referenced ordinance, a 5-foot path has to be cleared so that everyone from fathers pushing babies in strollers to little old ladies in wheelchairs can navigate along the sidewalk in safety, security and comfort.

What about people who can’t shovel?

They can hire someone, such as a local college student or high school student, who will work for modest compensation. Alternatively, a Snow Corps volunteer can be sought if the resident needing snow removal is a person with a disability or a senior citizen.

Source: FindLaw, “Chicago Sidewalk Clearing Laws,” accessed Feb. 16, 2018