Unusually cold weather causes an equally unusual problem in Metro Vancouver – icy sidewalks. With the risk of people slipping and falling, this also poses some legal questions. Who is responsible for clearing sidewalks? And by when?
All of the local municipalities have bylaws covering this. In Vancouver, Richmond, Port Coquitlam, and Maple Ridge sidewalks must be cleared by 10:00 a.m. while in Surrey and North Vancouver they must be cleared "as soon as possible."
So who cleans up the mess? That’s less clear. Most bylaws state that shoveling or salting sidewalks is the job of the "owner or occupier" of the property. But that can vary. Check with your local municipality for the rules in your area.
In Vancouver that means both landlord and renter for residential and business properties. The city’s website says both are responsible for clearing snow and ice “from the full width of sidewalks around your residence and business."
Yet provincial guidelines say it depends on what you rent. For multi-unit buildings, landlords are responsible. If the whole property is rented, such as a house, the tenant is generally responsible, unless stated otherwise in the rental agreement.
If you live in a condo, the job of snow and ice removal falls to your strata. The cost of clearing sidewalks is covered by your maintenance fees. Your property management company should be on top of it.
The City of Vancouver will enforce these bylaws if it receives complaints or if city crews note safety concerns. First time offenders will receive a notice, but fines may be handed out if there are repeat offences. That can cost $250 per offence for single-family and duplex dwellings and can reach up to $2000 for apartments and business sites.
So what should you do? The first step is to know your local bylaws. Check their website or call for information. From there, make an action plan for the future. Agree on who is going to clear the sidewalks and how and when it will be done. And keep supplies on hand to get the job done. Some shovels, picks, salt, and other deicing solutions, in particular.
Aside from avoiding fines, you want to make sure all responsibilities are taken care of so that no one falls and gets hurt. That can lead to serious injuries for unwitting pedestrians and costly legal issues for you. A few preventative steps planned in advance can save all sorts of future hassles.