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Snow removal and your home insurance

Snow is an inevitable part of Canadian winters. It is important to keep your driveway and walkways clear to avoid any unnecessary injuries to yourself or others visiting your property. You may not be sure why it is important, what the rules are and whether slip-and-falls on icy sidewalks are covered by home insurance.

What is liability insurance?

Liability insurance is an important part of your home insurance and every policy needs to have it. Liability insurance covers the costs associated with injuries sustained by others while on your property. It will not cover any expenses you, the homeowner, incur through injury on your property.

Make sure you understand what your home insurance policy covers and talk to your Western Financial Group broker if you have any questions.

Are you liable if someone is injured on an icy walkway on your property?

Determining liability in the case of a slip-and-fall is not always black and white and depends on factors like whether you shoveled the walk within the time allowed by your bylaws. Other circumstances, like water flowing from your property and freezing on the sidewalk, can also make you liable.

Even if your home liability insurance would end up covering a slip-and-fall, it is best to clear all walkways from snow and ice and prevent it from happening in the first place.

Are there laws about shoveling the snow?

Each municipality has its own bylaws about snow removal and requires the homeowner to shovel the snow often within 24 – 48 hours of it falling. Please refer to your local regulations to learn more.

Make sure you know what the bylaws in your city say about snow removal. They should be easy to locate online or by calling the municipality or municipal district.

Are tenants responsible for snow removal?

Rental contracts may specify that a tenant is responsible for snow removal but it must be clear when and where on the property the snow needs to be removed. If the tenant fails to take care of snow removal it becomes the landlord’s responsibility.

Tips for de-icing your sidewalk

  • Always shovel as quickly as possible.
  • If there is ice you cannot remove, put down de-icer to help soften the ice and then try again.
  • After you have cleared the sidewalk of ice as much as possible, sprinkle sand or gravel on it to provide traction.
  • Be careful about what kind of de-icer you buy, use it sparingly, and make sure it is environmentally friendly and pet-safe.

What should you do if someone falls on your sidewalk?

  • Help the injured person get medical treatment.
  • Take photos of where the accident happened, including photos of the footwear the person who fell was wearing if possible.
  • Record the time and date, witness contact information and what happened.
  • Report it to your home insurance provider along with any steps you took to prevent it.
  • Do not admit liability and let your insurer take care of communicating with the injured person.