How long do I have to clear my property after a snow storm?

Homeowners are at risk of a violation, after a snow storm, if they do not remove snow from their sidewalks alongside their homes within said guidelines of New York City's Department of Sanitation.

Although not a structural part of your house, the sidewalks adjacent to your home are your responsibility to maintain, and the task of clearing pathways covered in snow is your obligation.  NYC Administrative Code states that, every owner, lessee, tenant, occupant or any other person having charge of any lot or building must clean snow and ice from sidewalks adjacent to their properties.

On Staten Island and elsewhere in New York City, residential and commercial property owners are not required to shovel snow while it is falling, however must remove snow and ice from sidewalks in the aftermath of a snowfall to create a pedestrian path.  Snow and ice must additionally be removed from sidewalks around fire hydrants that may be in front of your property.

The city provides property owners with very specific time-related windows of opportunity for effectively shoveling sidewalks and averting a summons for non-compliance.  If, for example, snow stops falling between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., sidewalks must be cleared within 4 hours; if snow ceases between 5 and 9 p.m., sidewalks must be cleared within 14 hours, and if the snowfall concludes between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., sidewalks need to be cleared by 11 a.m.

If the snow can't be removed due to packed ice or other conditions, you can place down cat litter, snow melt or a similar product for traction. Once the snow has melted or is readily able to be removed, it is recommend that it is removed right away.

NYC bans snow from being pushed into the street.  This creates a hazardous road condition for vehicles passing by.  It also carries a fine of $100 and a Notice of Violation if Sanitation personnel observe you placing snow into the street.  Although it is not required, it is recommended that catch basins and drainage channels are cleared to help prevent flooding when the snow and ice melt.

The fine for a 1st time violation is between $100 and $150.  The fine for a 2nd offense is between $150 and $350, and the fine for a 3rd and subsequent offenses is $250 to $350.  If you are going to be out of town or on vacation, plan in advance.  Make sure someone will be responsible for your snow removal obligation. 

The most important aspect of removing snow from in front of your home is being prepared.  Purchase a shovel that is light and easy for you to handle. Remember the weight of the snow will add to the weight of the shovel and determine how easy your task will be.  You may even want to consider having two shovels, one that can push snow when it is lighter and one smaller one for when the snow is heavy.  Always make sure you have salt, calcium chloride or an effective ice melt on hand.  Removing the snow is only part of the task; making sure your walkways are clear from residual snow and ice is what will aid in averting potential insurance claims.

If you live in a Home Owners Association (HOA), make sure there is a proper plan in place for snow removal.  This may be a Property Management's responsibility or a community effort, but needs to be determined in advance.  It is important to make sure snow and ice is removed from the individual properties, as well as the common area walkways.

When shoveling, NARI-HIC recommends following these safety tips from the National Safety Council. Do not shovel after eating, drinking alcohol or while smoking.  This will create additional stress on your heart.  The frigid temperatures have already increased your risk of heart problems.  Don't add to it.  Take it slow and stretch before you begin; preparing your body for this heavy physical task is important.

Try to shovel in increments so that the snow is powdery, and lighter.  Waiting until all the snow has fallen is not necessarily a better option, especially when there is significant snow fall.  If at all possible, push the snow rather than lifting it; if you cannot push it, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel.  Lift with your legs, not your back; this will ease the pain you will feel the day after.  Do not work to the point of exhaustion; do a little at a time. 

As snow removal is not an easy task, and can be expensive to hire someone to do it for you, try to help your neighbors that are disabled, elderly or home bound.   It is especially important to help those that receive special services or meals from outside sources.  The entryways and walkways need to be accessible for those that are visiting those homes.  

As the winter is fast approaching, it is important to be prepared for a winter storm.  Make sure you have good shovels, a snow blower and the fuel needed to run your equipment.  Stock up on a good ice melt product that will provide the best results for your specific walkway and driveway materials.  Being prepared can make the overwhelming task of snow removal that much easier.