Who has to Shovel your Sidewalk?

People often wonder—usually just after a big snowfall—whether they really have to shovel their sidewalks. The answer to that question depends on what city you live in, and whether you are worried about liability if someone falls on your sidewalk, or about getting a fine. In Ontario, cities and municipalities are legally responsible for injuries that occur on sidewalks. This is because homeowners do not actually own sidewalks; they are owned by cities. Under the Occupiers’ Liability Act, it is the owner who is responsible for ensuring that hazards, including snow, are removed. This has been confirmed by several recent court decisions. According to the Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways, cities should clear sidewalks within 48 hours after the end of a snowfall of 8 c.m. or more. Failing to do so can mean that the city is liable for someone who hurts themselves as a result of the snow.

Despite this, it might not be a good idea to skip shoveling your snow this winter, as many cities and municipalities have passed by-laws to make sure sidewalks get shoveled. In London, the city plows many residential sidewalks, but the Streets By-law provides that people in certain retail districts must clear their sidewalks by 10:00 a.m. on any day that is not a holiday. Failing to do so can result in fines. Other cities, including Toronto, Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo, have enacted laws compelling property owners to shovel their sidewalks.

Keep in mind that if you are hurt from a fall on a snowy or icy sidewalk, you have a short window of time to notify the city that you are bringing a lawsuit. If you are injured, it is a good idea to contact a lawyer quickly to ensure your rights are protected.

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