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BC Supreme Court rules on homeowner responsibility for sidewalks

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  • Jan 13th, 2022 10:40 am
[OP]
Deal Fanatic
Jan 21, 2018
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Vancouver

BC Supreme Court rules on homeowner responsibility for sidewalks

It applies only to public sidewalks adjacent to your property, but here's what the BC Supreme Court had to say about homeowner responsibility for clearing snow and ice on public sidewalks, and whether you can be sued by someone who slips and falls on the sidewalk in front of your house:
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british- ... -1.6309767

Basically, the homeowner is not liable because they have no "good neighbour" responsibility to the general public, and the legal reasoning has something to do with whether you can sue for finding a dead slug in your beer bottle. Huh, doesn't seem very public-spirited.

Apparently it doesn't get you off the hook for failing to clear hazardous snow and ice from the path on your own property.
47 replies
Sr. Member
Apr 18, 2017
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I mean, this ruling is pure comon sense, no?
Deal Fanatic
Oct 6, 2007
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Kootenays
The problem is that not everybody has the ability to clear snow. Elderly and disabled people shouldn't be responsible for public sidewalks. Municipalities should carry that burden.
Deal Expert
Aug 2, 2001
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smacd wrote: The problem is that not everybody has the ability to clear snow. Elderly and disabled people shouldn't be responsible for public sidewalks. Municipalities should carry that burden.
Homeowners should be responsible for clearing snow and ice (provided that's in their municipal bylaws). If there comes a time when the homeowner is not able to do this, they should hire someone to do it or consider moving. This is one of the responsibilities of a homeowner, and regardless of your physical capabilities, you should carry out your obligations.

No one makes you own a home, and if you are not able to maintain it as per your city bylaws, you should move. There are plenty of options such as condos or multi-family housing options that take care of this obligation for you.
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Sep 27, 2006
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Not so easy there Ma…
I haven't read the article but clearly the pedestrians using public sidewalks should be responsible for clearing them if the city doesn't maintain them like they should. Winking Face

Failing that the homeowners on the other side of the road who don't have to put up with the sidewalks should be required to clean them off. After all fair is fair! Grinning Face With Smiling Eyes
Deal Fanatic
Feb 4, 2010
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User131439 wrote: I mean, this ruling is pure comon sense, no?
I think this ruling makes sense in municipalities where they do NOT clear the sidewalks. Some municipalities (like mine) the city clears the sidewalk so there should be no reason why the homeowner would be liable in this case.
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Dec 4, 2009
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TrevorK wrote: Homeowners should be responsible for clearing snow and ice (provided that's in their municipal bylaws). If there comes a time when the homeowner is not able to do this, they should hire someone to do it or consider moving. This is one of the responsibilities of a homeowner, and regardless of your physical capabilities, you should carry out your obligations.

No one makes you own a home, and if you are not able to maintain it as per your city bylaws, you should move. There are plenty of options such as condos or multi-family housing options that take care of this obligation for you.
I think it's the right thing to do but I also think it's ultimately the responsibility of the municipality and liability should lie with them. This is the first court ruling that I've come across that has made some sense (thank you RFD...) in a long time.

"Property owners are asked to clear the sidewalk adjacent to their property. " This is from the Town of Newmarket site. This is how it should be, property owners are asked, not required.
"I'm a bit upset. I've been grab by the back without any alert and lubrification"
Lucky
Deal Addict
May 21, 2015
1147 posts
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Sarnia, ON
Not BC , but this issue is covered by the Municipal Act of Ontario and it is the municipalities responsibility to clear ALL roadways and sidewalks in a timely manner. Ontario
municipalities can legally place the burden onto commercial properties though. My guess is that it is the same in most if not all provinces.
Deal Addict
May 23, 2006
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Vancouver
Legal court case concluded that not clearing sidewalk would not exposed one to civil's liability lawsuit; however, you still want to clear your sidewalk to comply with City's bylaws; otherwise, there can be fines. Also, it's good to do that to be a good corporate citizen.
Deal Expert
Feb 7, 2017
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Eastern Ontario
Good ruling

I have never understood WHY it’s the obligation of the homeowner to clear a PUBLIC SIDEWALK that actually lies outside of their own property line / adjacent to it.

As others have said, for some folks this burden is too great …

Once you pass a certain age, just cleaning your own steps, walkway, & driveway can be a challenge.

Even folks who hire snow removal services for their driveways … know that it not only costs extra to get your steps & walkway done … but their snow services often have trouble finding people to hire to do these jobs … and as a consequence … they aren’t usually done in a timely manner (another good reason for folks wanting to age in place to be sure and have an attached garage … so they can easily come and go no matter the weather )

If cities are gonna invest in sidewalks, pathways, and bike paths … then they need to maintain them for the general public … in the same way they are required to maintain streets & roads. Period
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Feb 25, 2004
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smacd wrote: The problem is that not everybody has the ability to clear snow. Elderly and disabled people shouldn't be responsible for public sidewalks. Municipalities should carry that burden.
That is how it is in Québec. It is the property of the city and the city maintains it (including repairs, removing snow and ice). As you said, some people cannot do it because they are older, disabled or simply out of town. It would not be fair for people that have no sidewalk on their side of the street or people on corners with a sidewalk on both sides.

There was a huge debate last year in my city because on smaller streets, they wanted to remove snow only on 1 side of the street to save money. Many people complained about this for multiple reasons, including keeping an easier access for disabled people. How could older or disabled people have safe access if some homeowners remove snow later in the day because they are at work while it is snowing?
Try not! Do or do not, there is no try...
Deal Expert
Feb 7, 2017
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JEDI Force wrote: That is how it is in Québec. It is the property of the city and the city maintains it (including repairs, removing snow and ice). As you said, some people cannot do it because they are older, disabled or simply out of town. It would not be fair for people that have no sidewalk on their side of the street or people on corners with a sidewalk on both sides.

There was a huge debate last year in my city because on smaller streets, they wanted to remove snow only on 1 side of the street to save money. Many people complained about this for multiple reasons, including keeping an easier access for disabled people. How could older or disabled people have safe access if some homeowners remove snow later in the day because they are at work while it is snowing?
Yup grew up in Quebec, spent a lot of time in Montreal.
Snow clearing was a city job … as it should be
Was the same in Ottawa too.
And even in smaller communities throughout Quebec & Ontario

I don’t understand this whole idea that it is somehow the homeowners responsibility.

That’s what municipal taxes are for.
Pay someone to clear the PUBLIC Right of way … just as if it was a road

Besides the burden then is a lot less
Everyone pays their fair share
Not just the homeowner who happens to have the sidewalk in front of his house doing all the work

Sidewalk ploughs … in my mind, one of the greatest things ever invented.
Been around for decades

CBC = Charlottetown
Deal Fanatic
Aug 29, 2011
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Mississauga
We have sidewalk plows here too, all run by the city. For the most part they do a good job but sometimes the drivers misjudge the sidewalk location and tear up the grass next to it.
[OP]
Deal Fanatic
Jan 21, 2018
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Vancouver
In all the municipalities around Vancouver local bylaws say that homeowners are responsible for clearing public sidewalks by 10am after a snowfall, and there is a fine for failure to comply. The court ruling about liability does not affect the bylaw fine.

"Vancouver property owners and occupants are responsible for clearing snow and ice from the full width of sidewalks in front of and, if on a corner lot, alongside their property by 10am the morning following a snowfall or freezing temperatures.

To keep our sidewalks and streets safe for people walking, cycling, and driving:

Shovel snow onto your property, away from the road and sidewalk by 10am every day
Clear storm drains of leaves and snow to prevent flooding
Ask someone to clear your sidewalk if you're away or unable to or request a Snow Angel
Owners and occupants who fail to remove snow and ice according to Traffic By-law 2849, section 76 may be subject to escalating tickets, fines, or both."

https://vancouver.ca/streets-transporta ... reets.aspx

Mostly the bylaw is widely ignored and there is no enforcement, but occasionally the city responds to a flood of complaints with an enforcement blitz:

"Penalties range from a minimum of $250 for an owner-occupied house to $400 for tenant-occupied properties and up to $800 for development lots."

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british- ... -1.5365469
Nov 20, 2019 - "it was standing room only inside Room 204 by the time everyone squeezed inside. Half a dozen people hovered in the aisles and one man was stuck holding the door open." Remember those pre-COVID days :)

After the heavy snowfall last week the bylaw officer could have walked down my street and given out $10,000 in fines, the worst offenders being development lots where the developer clearly doesn't give a crap about the neighbourhood. But they don't.
Deal Addict
Nov 12, 2006
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London
Scote64 wrote: In all the municipalities around Vancouver local bylaws say that homeowners are responsible for clearing public sidewalks by 10am after a snowfall, and there is a fine for failure to comply.
.
.
.
Ask someone to clear your sidewalk if you're away or unable to or request a Snow Angel
Ridiculous.
So, a homeowner has to have somebody on standby, just in case it snows when they are unavailable?
People have different work schedules.
People go away for a day or two.
Health and personal issues pop up.

I deal with my own snow around my schedule.
Why should I give special attention to somebody else's?
Deal Expert
Feb 7, 2017
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mrweather wrote: We have sidewalk plows here too, all run by the city. For the most part they do a good job but sometimes the drivers misjudge the sidewalk location and tear up the grass next to it.
Ya can happen

I think you’ll find …
If it’s really bad … come Spring you can just call the city
They’ll send out a land maintenance team to fix it
Deal Addict
Dec 19, 2015
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Calgary, AB
Toukolou wrote: I think it's the right thing to do but I also think it's ultimately the responsibility of the municipality and liability should lie with them. This is the first court ruling that I've come across that has made some sense (thank you RFD...) in a long time.

"Property owners are asked to clear the sidewalk adjacent to their property. " This is from the Town of Newmarket site. This is how it should be, property owners are asked, not required.
Depends where you live. In Calgary for example there is a Bylaw requiring you to clean your sidewalk within 24 hours or you may be fined.

You can argue that the municipality should be responsible for cleaning it but then the question comes down to money. Do you pay more taxes for them to do it, or do you do it yourself/pay someone to do it?

The ruling is a good call, common sense as mentioned above. IMO as long as you’re not negligent (E.g. using boiling water to lean the path) then then you shouldn’t be liable. You live in Canada and pathways will be icy at some point, no matter how well they are looked after.
PointsHubby wrote:
I have never understood WHY it’s the obligation of the homeowner to clear a PUBLIC SIDEWALK that actually lies outside of their own property line / adjacent to it.
Either pay more property tax, clean the sidewalk yourself, or pay someone else to do it. Those are the three options. It’s up to the people/municipality to work out which option is preferred for their particular municipality.

There are other precedence for this sort of choice, so it’s not unique.
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Dec 4, 2009
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Andy34 wrote: You live in Canada and pathways will be icy at some point, no matter how well they are looked after.
This here.

Imo, general liability ought to be limited in some way as well.
"I'm a bit upset. I've been grab by the back without any alert and lubrification"
Lucky
Deal Expert
Feb 7, 2017
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Andy34 wrote: Depends where you live. In Calgary for example there is a Bylaw requiring you to clean your sidewalk within 24 hours or you may be fined.

You can argue that the municipality should be responsible for cleaning it but then the question comes down to money. Do you pay more taxes for them to do it, or do you do it yourself/pay someone to do it?

The ruling is a good call, common sense as mentioned above. IMO as long as you’re not negligent (E.g. using boiling water to lean the path) then then you shouldn’t be liable. You live in Canada and pathways will be icy at some point, no matter how well they are looked after.

Either pay more property tax, clean the sidewalk yourself, or pay someone else to do it. Those are the three options. It’s up to the people/municipality to work out which option is preferred for their particular municipality.

There are other precedence for this sort of choice, so it’s not unique.
True enough …
But if all the residents of a community pay into the pot … it’s less of a burden on just a few … for the benefit of all
It’s far fairer

Just like every homeowner / renter / resident pays for other PUBLIC Services
Be they road maintenance … even if you don’t drive a car
Or public transit … even if you never take the bus etc

This is 2022 … life is busy
Who the heck has time to be out shovelling off city sidewalks ?

Sidewalk clearing should just be part of a city’s snow removal budget
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Dec 19, 2015
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Calgary, AB
PointsHubby wrote: True enough …
But if all the residents of a community pay into the pot … it’s less of a burden on just a few … for the benefit of all
It’s far fairer

Just like every homeowner / renter / resident pays for other PUBLIC Services
Be they road maintenance … even if you don’t drive a car
Or public transit … even if you never take the bus etc

This is 2022 … life is busy
Who the heck has time to be out shovelling off city sidewalks ?

Sidewalk clearing should just be part of a city’s snow removal budget
You can always arrange with your street to hire a company to do the whole thing if you want.

I’m not really sure how it’s less of a burden as everyone has to do it, or everyone has to pay for it either way. Public transport and roads are not the same thing as not everyone uses them, but every homeowner has to shovel and pay property tax.

If you’re shovelling your own path it takes very little extra time to do the sidewalk. And tbh I team up with my neighbours, whoever gets up and out first does 3-4 homes at once. My next door neighbour who’s in his 80s rarely does the path because it’s usually done for him. If you’re elderly or on vacation and not on an area with friendly neighbours, we can contact our local community centre and they can set up free (usually) snow removal.

TBH I find it works quite well, very few people don’t shovel their sidewalks.

It’s also worth pointing out that Calgary doesn’t plow most residential roads either. I’m sure if every homeowner was willing to pay an extra x hundred dollars a year then the city would do both roads and paths.

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