Editor’s Note: LoganSquarist staff writer Emily Wessel Farr is owner and partner at Ardent Law in Logan Square. She will be contributing a monthly column on legal matters.
Last week I fell — hard. It was like any normal Chicago day between November and May: the sun was hiding, the wind was howling and the snow and ice were just chilling on my sidewalk. Literally, chilling. As my sad self careened towards the ground, I wondered: will I die? And then: why, neighbor, why?
I hope you’ve never fallen. If you have, hopefully it was one of those cool falls where you can turn it into a skip. But if you live in Logan Square, where we have amazing public transportation, restaurants, retail and bars, you’re likely walking a great deal. Combine our walkable neighborhood with the do-it-yourself city ordinance on snow and ice removal in front of private homes and businesses, and your risk of getting hurt is high.
City Ordinance Regulates Snow Removal
Snow and ice removal is governed by the City’s Municipal Code 10-8-180. “Every owner, lessee, tenant, occupant, or other person having charge of any building or lot of ground in the city abutting upon any public way or public place shall remove the snow and ice from the sidewalk in front of such building or lot of ground.” You must shovel a width of five feet. You must not throw the snow in the road or any public way (and yes, that includes parking spaces, bike racks, Divvy stations, and any other place which would “impede the normal routing of pedestrian traffic.”)
If you own, you are responsible (condo owners often pay HOA fees to cover this expenses). If you rent, you may be responsible. Take care to check the terms of your rental agreement, as landlords are permitted to contract out this responsibility to you.
What about a big snow fall that just won’t quit? The City knows you won’t be outside in the middle of the night, armed with floodlights and shovels, for the good of the community. But you don’t have much time. Snow that falls before 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday “shall be removed within three hours.” Snow that falls on Sunday or after 4 p.m. on other days “shall be removed before 10 a.m.”
What does this mean, practically? During the busy work week (and Saturday), if the snow falls in the morning, it needs to be shoveled within a couple of hours. If the snow falls while you sleep, it needs to be shoveled by 10 a.m. the next morning. For those of us depending on sidewalks to get where we are going in a safe manner, walk a little slower on Sundays. Your neighbors have until Monday at 10 a.m. to remove snow and ice.
Cover-up Encouraged on Icy Ground
The City also knows that you won’t be deadlifting to train for snow removal season. If the ice outside your home, business, or rental is “frozen so hard that it cannot be removed without injury to the pavement …” (I’m sure they also care about you, too) those responsible shall, within the same time constraints, use “ashes, sand, sawdust, or some similar suitable material” on the area until it’s practical to thoroughly clean the sidewalk. Also, if you are elderly or disabled, the City can help. Snow Corp Volunteers, individuals who help with snow removal for those who cannot do it themselves, may be requested by calling 311.
If you are responsible for sidewalk clearing, you must take this responsibility seriously. Anyone may report violators by calling 311 or submitting a request online. In addition to fines of up to $500, you could also be liable for the personal injury of another. However, abide by the City Ordinance and remove snow and ice on schedule, and you help protect yourself. The Code’s section 10-8-190 reads: “Any person who removes snow or ice from the public sidewalk or street, shall not, as a result of his acts or omissions in such removal, be liable for civil damages.” This immunity mirrors the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act, which grants this protection for the purpose of encouraging owners and other residents to remove snow and ice. While these laws do not protect those who either intentionally or with utter disregard for the safety of others do a poor job at removing snow and ice, owners and residents who “miss a spot” in a good faith effort to comply will enjoy immunity.
Snow and ice removal is a community effort in Chicago. Take care of your neighbors by following the law and reporting those who don’t.
Emily Wessel Farr is Owner and Principal of Ardent Law, LLC, a litigation firm based in Logan Square.
Disclaimer: The above information is provided as general information, not as legal advice, and does not create an attorney client relationship. Before making any decisions regarding legal matters, individuals should consult with a qualified attorney.
Do you have a responsible, snow-clearing neighbor you want to recognize? Consider nominating them for the City’s Winter Wonder Award. The application is available through March 15.