Responsibility of Homeowners and Renters to Remove Snow and Ice from Sidewalks in New Jersey

March 12, 2013

New Jersey sidewalks are governed by a complex web of laws and regulations. Homeowners and renters often have questions about who is responsible for shoveling and salting sidewalks in New Jersey, fearing that failing to properly clear their sidewalks and walkways of snow and ice could expose them to liability for slip and fall accidents.

New Jersey sets different standards of liability depending upon whether the abutting property is owned by a private individual or a public entity and, if private, whether the use of the abutting property is commercial or residential. While commercial property owners have a duty to inspect for and remove or making safe accumulations of snow and ice on the adjacent sidewalk, as a general proposition, an abutting homeowner or renter owes no duty to pedestrians using the abutting sidewalk to remove ice and snow under New Jersey law.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that a landowner or renter who has no duty to clear a sidewalk of snow and ice but who voluntarily undertakes the task of doing so will be liable if “through his negligence a new element of danger or hazard, other than one caused by natural forces, is added to the safe use of the sidewalk by a pedestrian.”  Thus, the law in New Jersey on snow and ice removal is as such: Residential homeowners and renters are generally not liable for defects to a sidewalk or natural accumulations of snow and ice but may be liable for snow and ice conditions if they attempt to make a sidewalk safer for pedestrians by negligent attempts to address snow and ice.

Although a landowner owes no duty to pedestrians using the abutting sidewalk to remove ice and snow under New Jersey law, they may be fined for failing to remove snow and ice in accordance with local municipal law.  A fine from the borough or township for failing to comply with a local snow/ice removal ordinance, however, does not provide the basis for tort liability to a pedestrian who slips and falls and is injured on one’s sidewalk. Every municipality has different laws regarding snow and ice removal for sidewalks.  In the city of Red Bank, for example, property owners have 24 hours after a snowfall to clear the snow and ice from their sidewalks. Failure to do so results in a $100 fine and could also expose the property owner to liability for injuries. If you do not know the laws for your city, be sure to find out as soon as possible by calling your local municipality office.

Despite the fact that New Jersey law limits liability for homeowners and renters with respect to abutting sidewalks, understanding premises liability and your role in removing ice and snow can help prevent serious injuries. Whether you own your home or rent, know who is responsible for snow and ice removal. Review your homeowner’s insurance or check your lease agreement, and take the proper steps to keep your home safe for everyone.

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