Property owners and occupants in New York City and many Long Island communities are legally responsible for removing snow and ice, not only from their own walkways and entryways, but also from the sidewalks, walkways and parking lots in front of or attached to their properties.
Under premises liability law, property owners and occupants are responsible for taking reasonable steps to keep properties free from hazards and risks that could pose a danger to visitors. If a property owner or other responsible party is negligent in these responsibilities, and it causes a customer or guest to sustain injury while on the property, the injured party may have the right to seek damages by filing a premises liability claim.
Allowing snow and ice to remain untreated on walkways around a property is one example of negligence that could lead to a slip-and-fall accident.
New York City property owners have certain obligations regarding the proper and timely removal of snow and ice. The following are some of the basic property owners’ duties listed in New York’s administrative code:
Property owners are responsible for removing snow and ice from paved walkways and sidewalks outside their property in order to create a safe path for pedestrians. The City of New York gives property owners only a limited window of time in which to complete snow and ice removal after the precipitation ends. If the snow stops falling:
Between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., property owners have 4 hours to remove it.
Between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., property owners have 14 hours to remove it.
Between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., property owners have until 11 a.m. to remove it.
If a property owner has a bus stop or fire hydrant in front of his or her property, that owner is responsible for removing snow and ice from the sidewalks surrounding those areas.
Property owners are responsible for clearing access to their own buildings, driveways and parking lots, even when these areas have been obstructed by snow that was pushed aside by a city plow.
Parking lots must be cleared without moving the accumulated snow onto city streets. In most cases, this can be done using a shovel or plow. Property owners may opt to hire a private company to bring in snow-removal equipment to clear their parking lots.
Property owners must keep interior floors dry. This can be done by regularly mopping up any snow or ice tracked in by customers and employees. “Wet floor” signs should also be set up to alert customers and others to the potential danger.
There are exceptions built into the city’s administrative code which state that, “in the event the snow or ice on the property has frozen so hard it cannot be removed without injury to the pavement, the owner, lessee, tenant, occupant or other person having charge of any building or lot of ground as aforesaid, may, within the time specified in the preceding subdivision, cause the sidewalk abutting on such premises to be strewed with ashes, sand, sawdust, or some similar suitable material, and shall, as soon thereafter as the weather shall permit, thoroughly clean such sidewalks.”
Property owners who fail to remove snow and ice from sidewalks, storefronts and parking lots in a timely fashion could receive a notice of violation, a ticket or a summons from the city. They might also be subjected to various fines, imprisonment or both.
First offense: $100 to $150 in fines
Second offense: $150 to $350 in fines
Third and subsequent offenses: $250 to $350 in fines
Property owners and occupants face the risk of having premises liability lawsuits filed against them, particularly if a person were to slip and fall as a result of the property owner or occupant’s negligence in adhering to the city’s snow and ice removal policies.
While there are numerous methods by which property owners can clear snow and ice from their properties, it is illegal for a property owner to remove snow by throwing it into the street. Property owners who do this could face hefty fines and civil penalties.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), New York City’s Central Park saw a total of 57.4 inches of snow during the 2013-2014 winter season. The months with the highest snowfall totals last year were January, with 19.7 inches of snow and February, with 29.0 inches.
New York Magazine puts city snowfall totals from the East Coast’s most recent storm (the “Blizzard of January 2015”) at:
Some Long Island residents saw considerably more:
With all of the snow and ice that winter storms bring to New York City and Long Island, snow and ice removal is extremely important in the prevention of slip-and-fall accidents.
If you have become the victim of a snow- or ice-related slip-and-fall accident at a local business or residence, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. In these situations, a premises liability lawsuit may be filed against the property owner, occupant or other responsible party, if there is sufficient evidence to show that a failure to remove or properly treat snow and ice was the cause of the accident. Damages may be sought for medical expenses, lost wages and other losses.