Legal Articles

Surrency-380x360.jpgIce Ice Baby: A Look at the Duty to Remove Accumulations of Snow and IceBY CHANDLER SURRENCY | hOPKINS & hUEBNER, p.c. | des moines office

On February 2, Punxsutawney Phil predicted that we would have an early spring this year.  So far, it seems pretty clear that the groundhog was wrong.  In the weeks since Phil didn’t see his shadow, every seven-day forecast has shown yet another round of snow heading our way.  I’ve already had enough winter for the year, but I don’t get to decide the weather.

With all of this snow comes the reminder that property owners must shovel their sidewalks to remove accumulations of snow and ice.  According to Iowa Code § 364.12(2)(b):

The abutting property owner is responsible for the removal of the natural accumulations of snow and ice from the sidewalks within a reasonable amount of time and may be liable for damages caused by the failure of the abutting property owner to use reasonable care in the removal of snow and ice.

So what is a “reasonable amount of time” within which snow and ice must be removed?  Well, it depends where you are.  In Des Moines, residents are required to remove all snow and ice from sidewalks within 48 hours after the end of the snowfall.  Property owners who do not do so may receive a civil citation.  In West Des Moines, property owners are given 24 hours after the end of a storm to remove all snow from the sidewalk.  In Norwalk, if a property owner does not remove snow and ice within 24 hours, the City may do so and assess the costs against the property owner.  In Ames, property owners or tenants have 10 daylight hours from the last snow accumulation in which to clear their sidewalks.  In Waukee, the abutting property owner must remove snow and ice from sidewalks within 24 hours after the cessation of the weather event.  In Adel, residents are required to clear sidewalks within 24 hours of the end of a storm.

In addition to removing snow and ice from the sidewalks, residents must assist their city workers with snow removal efforts by moving their vehicles off the street during snow removal operations.  Any vehicles not moved from snow removal routes may be ticketed or towed.

While I wish these regulations wouldn’t be relevant again until next winter, it appears we may have to deal with a bit more snow before Punxsutawney Phil’s spring prediction comes true.  Happy shoveling!