It’s the time of the year for snow and ice, but it’s not a winter wonderland for everyone. Snow and ice can quickly become a nightmare for Baby Boomers.
Snow and ice become more treacherous as we get older. Falling on ice in a parking lot or sidewalk can lead to serious injuries and permanent damage. For Boomers who own their homes, it becomes increasingly difficult to go outside and shovel sidewalks and walkways, and to remove icicles from awnings and spouts. However, it’s important to remember that homeowners are responsible for making their properties safe.
Premises Liability – Removing Snow and Ice
Essentially, premises liability means a property owner is responsible for keeping his or her property safe. If a mailman or a visitor falls because you didn’t shovel and salt your walkway, you could be responsible for covering that person’s injuries.
If you own your home…
Many Boomers own their homes. Homeowners are responsible for removing snow and ice. If you have homeowner’s insurance, your policy will cover the costs if you or someone else is injured, up to the maximum amount of coverage available. If the medical bills are higher than the coverage you have, you can be held personally responsible for those costs.
If you rent…
- If you rent your home, you may or may not be responsible for removing ice and snow.
- If you rent or lease a single family home, you likely are responsible for taking care of snow and ice.
- If you live in an apartment complex with several other units, the landlord or property management company should be responsible for removing snow and ice. Always read your rental agreement thoroughly – there may be a clause in the contract stating you must take care of snow and ice removal.
- If you live in a retirement community or rent from a company that manages properties for retirement-age tenants, they may take care of all maintenance and landscaping – including snow and ice removal.
Keep in mind that the city or municipality where you live may have laws for removing ice and snow. For example, you may have to shovel and salt your sidewalks within 24 hours, or within a “reasonable amount of time.” If you don’t know the laws for your area, be sure to find out as soon as possible by calling your local municipality office.
Tips for Keeping Your Home Safe
As a Boomer, eliminating hazards from your home is becoming even more important to protect yourself and others. There are several things you can do to avoid slips and falls, and to keep your homes safe:
- Watch for spouts coming from the roof – they can cause ice patches or dangerous ice. If a downspout is near a sidewalk or driveway, take extra caution to clear it.
- If you’re out of town, you still must arrange to have someone else clear your sidewalks and driveways.
- Whether you’re physically unable to remove snow and ice, or you’re out of town, ask a family member to do it for you, or hire a professional.
- If you have icicles hanging from your home, block off the area with orange cones or brightly colored construction tape until you can remove them.
- Take notice to other safety hazards while removing snow and ice. Water expands when it freezes, so large cracks and holes can appear in your sidewalk, which poses yet another tripping hazard. Be sure your outdoor lighting is adequate as well.
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.
Attorney Edgar Snyder has served the residents of western Pennsylvania and its surrounding regions for over 40 years. His law firm, Edgar Snyder & Associates, has represented over 30,000 people, including clients who were injured in slip and fall accidents. For more information, visit EdgarSnyder.com.