How Does The New York City Sidewalk Law Affect Homeowners?

sidewalklawTo paraphrase a famous movie, “Yes, Virginia there is a sidewalk law in New York City and it is enforced!”

Property owners, lessees, tenants and occupants of New York City property are all subject to the provisions of a law passed in 2003 governing sidewalks in the City of New York. So what does the law say? Previously, the concrete located between the curb and the front of most commercial and multifamily residential buildings was considered the responsibility of the City. So, if someone fell and claimed injuries, they could make a claim against the City. This law, transfers that responsibility to you! Failure to comply with the provisions of this law can result in fines, 10 days in prison or both. Also, part of the law mandates that a property owner must keep liability insurance in force to pay for injuries due to snow covered, icy, broken or defective sidewalks. Failure to keep insurance in full force and effect might result in the City paying on your behalf, but make no mistake that they will bill you for any resulting expense as part of your taxes for the next fiscal year. However, this law governs a lot more than snow removal as is commonly thought.

Did you know that the law even includes a specific time constraint for removal of ice, snow, dirt, and debris? According to the law, you have four hours after snow stops falling, or after dirt is deposited on a sidewalk or in a gutter, for removal. The law even addresses snow and ice on a sidewalk that is so frozen that it can’t be removed without actually doing damage to the pavement. In such cases, the owner, lessee, tenant or occupant is expected to put down ashes, sand, sawdust or any other material as a temporary measure to remedy the condition until weather permits sidewalks to be thoroughly cleaned. Failure to comply with the law can result in fines of, no less than, $10 and no more than $150, imprisonment of up to ten days, or both. And, that is not all! If you chose to ignore this law, the city will step in and clean your property with the understanding that they will charge you the going rate for cleaning the city streets. The ensuing charges will be sent to the City Comptroller’s office and added to your annual taxes for the next fiscal year.

The purpose of the law is to shift the responsibility for accidents from the City to the property owner. Sidewalk defects including concrete laden with snow, ice and dirt or uneven and broken sidewalks cause countless injuries every year. While the law only applies to accidents occurring on or after September 15, 2003, to date it has been a boom for the City coffers.

Owners, who don’t maintain insurance for their premises, are in violation of the law. When there is no insurance, the City Comptroller pays the uncompensated medical expenses of an injured person and then goes after the property owner for reimbursement.

According to statistics, since the law has been in force, there has been a steady decline in the number of sidewalk related injury claims filed against the City. So it pays to know what your responsibilities are. Ignorance of your responsibilities can be very expensive. One way or another you will wind up paying should you fail to comply with this law.

– Karen Skoler, CPCU

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