In the cold season there is a risk of snow and ice – and with it so-called traffic safety obligations. But who actually has to take care of clearing snow and gritting the adjacent sidewalks? And at what point do you have to react?
According to recent court rulings, the gritting obligation must be complied with when there is a “serious local risk of icy conditions” – and not only when the paths and roads nationwide are icy. According to the statutes of the cities and municipalities, the residents, i.e. the property and property owners or a possible owners’ association, are responsible for spreading and shoveling snow. If the owners do not comply with these obligations, improperly or in a timely manner, they face fines. Sidewalks in front of the residential property must be cleared of snow by residents to a width necessary for pedestrian traffic. On streets where there is no separation of sidewalk and road, the required width for pedestrians is 1 meter. If it is slippery, all sidewalks, pedestrian crossings and dangerous areas that border the residential property must also be sprinkled. Access and ramps to underground car parks and public transport stops must also be made accessible.
Of course, the owner can also transfer the distribution obligation to a tenant in an apartment building, for example. He just has to ensure that the paths are actually cleared. The basic rule is that the sidewalk in front of the house, the house entrance and often the path to the garbage cans must be safe for traffic. Weather permitting, the obligation to remove snow and spread granules or sand generally occurs between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays and between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Sundays and public holidays. However, if the property owner knows that passers-by are entering their property earlier, they can be held liable for accidents even before 7 a.m. If it snows several times a day or black ice forms repeatedly, this means that winter service may have to be carried out several times. If it snows continuously and continuously or ice forms, you can wait until the weather conditions improve before starting gritting and clearing work. However, caution is advised in such a case. In the event of a dispute, the residents must convince the court that sprinkling or shoveling snow at the time in question was completely pointless.
Especially during prolonged snowfalls and cold periods, homeowners are obliged to immediately remove icicles or snow overhangs or to secure the danger area. Residents and homeowners should only remove icicles themselves (e.g. on balconies) if this is possible without risk. If this cannot be done safely, the homeowners should commission a specialist company, such as a roofing company, to do it. In apartment buildings, the owner is permitted to transfer the security obligation to the residents. However, this must be expressly stated in the rental agreement. A corresponding clause in the house rules is only effective if the tenant was able to view it before the contract was concluded. If an owner commissions a professional winter service, he, as the client, has a duty of control. If snow clearing and spreading were not carried out properly, improvements must be made. Anyone who fails to comply with their cleaning and winter maintenance obligations is committing an administrative offense and can be subject to a sometimes hefty fine.