Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Sidewalks offer a safe place to walk, which is why most cities have laws requiring their construction and maintenance. But who is responsible for keeping the sidewalk in front of your property in good repair?

In many cities, the property owner must keep the sidewalk in front of their property clear and serviceable. To this end, Native Concrete & Sidewalk can help with necessary repairs to your sidewalk. That said, your mileage may vary.

But, it helps to know who is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in front of your home or property. Depending on existing laws in your state, it may be the city, county, or state.

If you’re unsure, contact your local municipality or public works department. Meanwhile, here’s some helpful info that could help you avoid liability, especially if you’re responsible for the sidewalk’s maintenance.

1. The Sidewalk is A Public Easement

Essentially, a public easement is an area open to the public for certain activities. The most common easements are for utilities, such as water, sewer lines, walkways, or roads. While an easement gives the public the right to use the land, it remains your responsibility to maintain it – although this depends.

In most cases, the city or municipality is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in a condition safe for pedestrian passage, but YOU are responsible for its day-to-day upkeep. This means you should regularly sweep away debris and ensure cracks or other damage do not pose a tripping hazard. It also implies you need to clear ice or snow that builds up on the sidewalk in front of your home.

Otherwise, if an unsuspecting passerby slips and gets injured, they could hold you liable, even if you weren’t directly responsible for the mishap. This is why it’s always a good idea to take care of any repair work.

Typically, your property taxes include the sidewalk. By extension, it ‘sorta’ implies you have some responsibility to take care of it by keeping it clear.

That said, you can’t block others from using it. For instance, if your car blocks part of the sidewalk, a pedestrian on their leisurely walk would have to go around it – perhaps into the street. As such, you would be liable if they’re injured in the process. Still, you could be on the hook for a ticket if you block sidewalk access. Also, the authorities may tow your vehicle.

2. Assessment Fee

As a homeowner, you’ll usually pay an assessment to install a sidewalk in front of your home. You may also have to pay for maintenance and repairs. The city or county in which you live will typically be responsible for the sidewalk in front of your home, but there are exceptions.

For example, the local government may require you to maintain the sidewalk per the district’s guidelines if you live in a historic district.

Local authorities may also call upon you to pay a deposit on the curb, including the sidewalk, if you’re putting up a property, such as an extension to your home. The refundable payment is usually a particular percentage of the cost of replacing the curb in case of damage during your project.

If the sidewalk needs repair, contact the appropriate entity to have it fixed. If it’s your responsibility, you can do the repairs. Otherwise, you will likely need to hire a contractor to tackle the job if it’s a public sidewalk.

The rules may differ if your living arrangement is different, say in a condo or apartment complex. In this case, check your rental agreement or building code to see who is responsible for repairs to the sidewalk.

3. Changing By-Laws

It’s not uncommon for your city to enact by-laws requiring you to shoulder part of the responsibility of tending to your sidewalk. If such a law comes into effect, failing to abide by it could result in a fine. Find out from your municipality to see if this is the case.

You may also need to pay for the entire sidewalk if it’s part of a new development or due to legal changes. Also, if you don’t maintain the sidewalk and it falls into disrepair, the municipality may repair it and bill you for the entire cost. In some cases, they may even put a lien on your property. So, be aware of your responsibilities as a homeowner before neglecting to fix a cracked or uneven sidewalk.

If you have questions about your easement, contact your municipality or local planning department (as aforementioned). They can advise you on the by-laws in your area, including the role you should play. And who knows, by staying informed, you could dodge a bullet.

By Manali