Washington, DC

“Now we have a semi-decent snowfall, I was wondering if you would be interested in/willing to run a post about shoveling the sidewalk.  I was doing some research online this evening to see what homeowners are obliged to do by the city (I have every intention of shoveling, but wanted to know whether I need to run out in the morning before work to buy a shovel, or whether it can wait until after work) and discovered that:

DC law requires all owners to shovel the adjacent sidewalk and steps within 8 daylight hours of the end of the snow fall (DC Code 9-601).  If the owner does not do this, the city must do it, but can sue the owner for costs and a small fine (DC Code 9-605; 9-606).  But according to this Marc Fisher article, the city does not actually go after property owners: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/rawfisher/2007/02/shovel_your_walkor_else_or_els.html

So: just as I was thinking I would buy a shovel after work tomorrow, I came across an article suggesting that in New York savvy homeowners do not shovel, and instead pay any fines they are unlucky enough to get, because, in a nutshell, if you shovel and someone slips and falls, you can be held liable for negligent shoveling, but if you do nothing, it is an open danger, and you cannot be held liable.  This made me recall my wife’s remark while walking the dog this evening that the sidewalk was slippier where someone had shoveled than where there was packed snow to walk on. I think I will chance it and shovel anyway, because I think our elderly neighbors will appreciate it, but perhaps one of your readers knows whether there are similar liability issues in DC.”


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