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CH Morning Live: Winter Homeowner Liability

Although most spots in the Hamilton, Ontario area don’t have snow or ice yet, you know it’s coming. Daniel Roncari of the Morris Law Group joined CH Morning Live with information about what homeowners and municipalities need to watch out for.


Annette Hamm, Host: Although most spots in our viewing area don’t have snow or ice yet, we know it’s coming. Daniel Roncari of The Morris Law Group joins us just now. With a lot, homeowners and what municipalities need to do.

Daniel Roncari, The Morris Law Group: Yes, and thanks for having me back.

Are homeowners required to clear snow on their property and the sidewalk?

A.M.: So, let’s start off with homeowners first of all. You know, we are all told you have to clear your snow and ice, within a certain amount of time. What are your responsibilities if somebody maybe slips and falls?

D.R.: Well, your responsibility first of all as homeowner is to ensure visitors on your property are reasonably safe from harm while they are on your property. So, this can include shoveling, salting, your driveways, pathways, and steps as well.

There is also a city of Hamilton bylaw, a snow clearing bylaw that requires homeowners ensure the adjacent sidewalk to their property is clear from snow, and if they have a roof that overhangs the city sidewalk, they must ensure that is clear of snow as well. And I believe it is 24 hours after a snow fall, to ensure that the sidewalk and the roof is clear. That’s different though, than the responsibilities on the Occupier’s Liability Act. Which sets a reasonable care standard and it’s hard to say what requirements are under that act, because every case is decided differently. But certainly, that bylaw could be a factor.

A.M.: Because if you clear your snow, it still could be slippery.

D.R.: Ya, absolutely. And the standard is reasonably safe. So, that’s why the courts determine on a fact-based inquiry. They look at all sorts of facts to determine whether or not a homeowner met that standard.

What happens if somebody slips and falls on the sidewalk? Who is at fault?

A.M.: Ok, what happens if somebody, not a guest of yours, but somebody walking on the sidewalk in front of your place slips and falls. Is that your fault as well as the city’s fault, possibly?

D.R.: Possibly, I mean if a homeowner were shoveling their snow and creating a snow bank on the sidewalk that could possibly create some liability for the homeowner. But generally speaking, it is the city’s responsibility to make sure that the sidewalks are in a reasonable state of repair. One thing of yours, you may want to know is that if you get hurt because a city sidewalk, wasn’t maintained properly, there is a ten-day notice requirement. You have to give written notice to the municipality within ten days.

A.M.: Ok, because you can fall.

Notice of injury

A.M.: Alright, you want to give notification to protect yourself as well. Because if you fall, you could feel like, I’m ok today. And then who knows, a few hours or later something could develop.

D.R.: Absolutely. It is always good to protect your rights, because you never know what the long-term consequences will be from an injury.

Homeowner obligations and protecting yourself from injury liability

A.M.: Have you seen any lawsuits come out within the city, proving the point of why it’s so important to clear your ice and snow?

D.R.: Well, it’s generally to ensure that people are safe, because we live in Canada, we live in Ontario and there is going to be snowfall. Right, at some point, so far, it’s been pretty mild. But it’s to ensure that people are safe while they are walking and that we know that people are visiting people over the holidays. And that to just make sure that people fulfill their obligations.

A.M.: Right, and even if you’re not expecting somebody, say up your driveway, you still have to keep in mind that a delivery person might come.

D.R.: Exactly, people dropping off mail, parcels. So, it’s always important to make sure your home is reasonably safe.

A.M.: Ok, so good idea now to stalk up on the ice melter and get those shovels ready. Brian will tell us in the new half-hour, we might be getting some snow. So, thank you Daniel for coming.

D.R.: Thank you so much!


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