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Snow Code – snow and ice clearing law and advice

Should homeowners clear snow and ice from their paths and driveways and could you be held liable if someone has an accident on your property.

There is much confusion in this area of law. However the confusion lies more with media misrepresentation than any legal constraints passed down by the courts. 

The advice confirms that despite some media reports to the contrary, it is extremely unlikely that someone who has attempted to clear snow in a careful manner will be sued or held legally responsible if someone slips or falls on ice or snow at their property. People should not be deterred from performing a socially responsible act, such as clearing a path of snow, by the fear that someone may subsequently get injured slipping on the path.

Though the person clearing the snow does have responsibilities when doing the job, mainly to ensure that they are not making the area more dangerous by allowing it to refreeze, it is important to note that those walking on snow and ice have responsibilities themselves. A common sense approach is encouraged.

The government advice is to:

  • Try and move the snow and ice as early in the day as possible as it is easier to clear away fresh snow than that which has packed together and hardened through people walking on it. Also, by moving the snow away early it will enable the person to put salt or grit down on the path to stop it freezing again overnight.
     
  • Grit salt or sand should be used rather than water as that can refreeze and turn into black ice, therefore making the area more hazardous that it was before the snow and ice was cleared.
     
  • People moving the snow around should take care where they are moving it to as it should not block other people’s paths or drains. They should also try and clear from the middle of the area first and then move snow from the middle out to the sides.
     
  • If possible try and clear neighbours’ paths, especially if they are elderly or disabled.

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