Dear Edina Realty Legal,
I’ve heard that I don’t own the sidewalk in front of my house. Apparently, the city owns it. If that’s the case, why do I have to shovel it?
What you’ve heard is most likely correct. Most sidewalks that are adjacent to city streets are actually public property. Cities typically own a right of way that includes not only the street itself, but also the land adjacent to the roadway. This usually includes the sidewalk and, in some municipalities, even extends some distance past the sidewalk.
So, why do homeowners have to shovel a city-owned sidewalk?
State law provides cities with the authority to require the owners of property next to the sidewalk to clear their sidewalks of snow and ice. Most cities have used this authority by adopting local laws, called ordinances, to require property owners to shovel adjacent sidewalks.
Despite the authority found in state law, some cities choose to be responsible for the plowing of all, or at least some, of the public sidewalks. You should check with your city government to determine the local ordinance, but here are some common stipulations:
- Generally, a snow removal ordinance will require the homeowner to remove snow within a specific period, such as 24 hours after the end of a snowfall event.
- If the homeowner fails to clear the sidewalk in a timely manner, the city may take action to remove the snow and ice itself and charge the owner for the cost. On top of that cost, municipalities may issue a fine. If unpaid, the costs for removing the snow and ice can be assessed to the property and collected with the homeowner’s property taxes.
- Pay attention to where you place the snow as you clear it from your driveway and sidewalk. It is against Minnesota law, as well as many local ordinances, to push snow or ice onto the road. Make sure that any piling of snow does not obstruct the view of drivers on the road – or your view as you leave your driveway.
- Because the sidewalk is public property, a homeowner might not be responsible for injuries occurring on it. But beyond legal liability, it’s important to be a good neighbor and local citizen. You don’t want to be the cause of a friend or a neighbor getting injured.
The Edina Realty Legal Department serves as in-house counsel for Edina Realty and does not represent private clients. This Insight is not intended to provide legal advice.