Many local cities have ordinances requiring homeowners or building occupants to clear their sidewalks of ice and snow, though some rules are rarely enforced.
A Dayton city law passed in 2014 says, "It shall be the duty of the owner or of the occupant of each and every parcel of real estate in the city abutting upon any sidewalk, to keep the sidewalk abutting his premises free and clear of snow and ice, and to remove therefrom all snow and ice accumulated thereon within a reasonable time, which will ordinarily not exceed 12 hours after the abatement of any storm during which the snow and ice may have accumulated."
The law says that if someone doesn’t clear off their sidewalk, the city can do it and charge the homeowner for the service.
City officials say they have never cited anyone for violating this ordinance.
Likewise, the city of Kettering requires property owners to clear off their own sidewalks.
“It is not something we aggressively enforce,” said Kettering spokeswoman Stacy Schweikhart. “It’s an expectation we communicate widely, and we deal with any instances on a case by case basis.”
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City officials at Kettering and elsewhere said that if they receive complaints about someone not clearing off their sidewalk, they will usually inform the homeowner of their responsibility to clear it off, which is generally enough to get them to comply.
Property owners or occupants in some cities, such as Hamilton and Springfield, can be found guilty of a minor misdemeanor for not clearing their sidewalks.
Springfield requires occupants of every building in the city abutting a sidewalk to clear it "of snow, ice and filth, by 10:00 a.m. of the day succeeding any such deposit of snow, ice, dirt or filth," per city ordinance.
For unimproved or unoccupied land, that responsibility rests with the property owner.
Dean Fadel, president of the Ohio Insurance Institute, encourages people to check with their local municipality on whether show and ice removal is mandated. If it’s not required by local ordinance, he said the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled homeowners aren’t obligated to clear their sidewalks.
“Though it’s a good idea for homeowner’s to try and maintain safe walkways, it’s up to your guests and other pedestrians to assume that due to the nature of Ohio winters, there’s always a risk of a slip or fall due to natural accumulation,” he said.
“If your city or township has an ordinance that requires residents to keep walkways free of snow and ice, then you have a responsibility to maintain your sidewalks,” Fadel said. “However, a local ordinance does not automatically implicate a homeowner if someone slips and falls on their uncleared property.”
All this means with more snow in the forecast, residents and property owners should keep their shovels and sidewalk salt handy.
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