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Legal consequences of failing to clear your sidewalk of ice, snow

Last Updated Jan 3, 2017 at 10:07 am PDT

(Simon Druker, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Local lawyer says businesses are responsible for clearing a safe pathway to their store

Many city bylaws say sidewalks have to be clear by 10 a.m. following a snowfall

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – We haven’t had any new snow in a few days around Metro Vancouver but there is no shortage of complaints when it comes to ice-covered sidewalks.

We’ve all seen and more importantly, had to navigate some of those slippery sidewalks and even though they’re clear of snow — the ice can be treacherous.

NEWS 1130 Legal Analyst Michael Shapray says it comes down to who lives there in front of the property and not who owns it. “Generally, the person who is in the property is responsible clearing the sidewalks in front of the residence or business.”

That’s unless there’s an agreement in the lease that someone else like the landlord will take responsibility. “The expectation is when you’re going on private premises that are run by a business that there will be a clearing of the parking lot and the sidewalks leading into the businesses so people don’t slip and fall. Any business that is inviting the public onto their premises is responsible for providing a safe environment. They can be held responsible if they don’t.”

In Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, Maple Ridge and Richmond that clearing of snow must happen by 10 a.m. following a snowfall, while in North Vancouver and Surrey the bylaw reads “as soon as possible.”

You may have seen people pushing snow and ice onto the street when clearing their sidewalk and Shapray adds there are no specifics about that in local bylaws. “The bylaw doesn’t specifically say where the snow is to end up. The snow is to be removed from the public sidewalks so people can access it and handicapped people can travel freely through the sidewalk. Generally, people will put it on their law or on the median.”

NEWS 1130 Meteorologist Russ Lacate says there is more snow in the forecast this weekend.

How other Canadian cities handle snowfall

Like here, crews in Calgary put down an anti-icing material before the flakes start falling, followed by salt, or salt and gravel once the snow starts to fall.

Brittany Kustra with the City of Calgary says high-volume roads are cleared within 24 hours of the snowfall’s end. “From there we move on to bus routes and connector roads, which are completed within 48 hours after the snow has stopped falling, and from there we move on to residential areas.”

In Toronto, the city says plowing will begin on side streets when the snow stops and if eight centimetres has fallen and that is usually done within 14 to 16 hours after a snowfall ends.