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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Winter 2023. Consequences for unplowed snow and icy sidewalks. Who has to clean the sidewalk? How much is the fine?

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You may be fined up to PLN 1,500 for not clearing snow from the sidewalk. This obligation rests with property owners and managers. A person who has had an accident due to this type of negligence has the right to claim compensation.

Pursuant to Article 5 of the 1996 Act on maintaining cleanliness and order in municipalities, property owners are obliged to ensure that cleanliness and order are maintained by “cleaning snow and ice and removing mud and other contamination from sidewalks located along the property.”

This obligation rests not only on the owners, but also on the co-owners and managers.

How should this be interpreted? If we have a sidewalk right next to our property, we are responsible for clearing snow. However, if there is, for example, a green belt between the sidewalk and the property line, then the obligation to clear snow rests with the commune.

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Clearing snow from the sidewalk is also not our responsibility if the commune charges fees for parking or parking a car in a space designated for pedestrian traffic, or if we are dealing with a bus (or tram) stop that is clearly separated, e.g. by a curb or horizontal rail vehicle track sign.

The sidewalk should be cleaned when there is snow, ice and mud on it, but “other debris” can also mean leaves, gravel, or simply anything else that may be an inconvenience for pedestrians. Snow must not be shoveled onto the road or obstruct the passage of cars or pedestrians.

Failure to clear snow from the sidewalk. What could be the consequences

There are consequences for not clearing snow from the sidewalk. It usually starts with a warning or a small fine, but subsequent negligence may increase the penalty and lead to a court decision, and this is where Art. 117. of the Code of Petty Offenses.

“Whoever, having the obligation to maintain cleanliness and order within the property, fails to perform his duties or does not comply with the indications and orders issued by the competent authorities in order to ensure proper sanitary condition and combat infectious diseases, shall be subject to a fine of up to PLN 1,500 or a reprimand.” – we read in the Code of Petty Offenses.

If we do not clean up the sidewalk and an accident occurs on the sidewalk adjacent to our property, e.g. someone slips and breaks an arm, this person has the right to seek compensation in civil court. The injured party has the right to compensation for previous treatment, medications, rehabilitation and lost profit, e.g. due to inability to work. Additionally, if the injured person was seriously disabled as a result of the incident, he or she may also apply for a pension. Depending on the situation, the cost may range from several to several dozen thousand zlotys.

Not just the sidewalk

Clearing snow from the sidewalk is not the end of winter work that needs to be done. Construction law also requires the removal of snow from the roof and the removal of hanging icicles and snow overhangs. This applies to roofs of residential buildings as well as garages and outbuildings. In this case, you must also take into account liability if, for example, an uncleaned icicle falls on someone.

In the case of multi-family houses, the responsibility for clearing snow from the sidewalk rests with all residents, so in practice it is done by the cooperative or community.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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