#snOMG 2009 – Who’s Responsible for Clearing Snow in DC? DCRA Says It Depends.


The snow is coming down hard this morning and is expected to continue all day, but once it stops, who’s responsible for shoveling the walks and sidewalks at your apartment building, rental house or condo? Well, it depends. In most single family rental leases the renter is responsible for clearing snow. In larger buildings with property managers, they typically handle. And in between, you need to check your lease or just do it yourself. If you do live in a larger building where the landlord is responsible and they’re not doing anything, Send them here. Here are the rules:

Who is responsible for clearing sidewalks?
District law requires property owners to clear snow and ice from sidewalks, handicap ramps and steps abutting their property within the first 8 daylight hours after snow, sleet or ice stop falling. (DC Code, 2001 Ed, § 9-601.) This applies to all property owners – residential, commercial, federal, and municipal. If ice cannot be cleared without damaging the sidewalk, then property owners may spread sand or salt to make the sidewalks safe. (DC Code, 2001 Ed, § 9-604.) Property owners must also clear snow from the ADA-curb cuts. These are part of the sidewalk. Property owners are also asked to clear snow from catch basins and storm drains to prevent flooding during snow melt.

Do other cities require property owners to do this?
Yes

Is there a fine for not clearing the sidewalk?
According to the municipal Code, if property owners fail to comply, the District is required to clear their sidewalks (DC Code, 2001 Ed., § 9-605) and sue the property owners for the cost of clearing the snow or ice plus a $25 fine (DC Code, 2001 Ed., § 9-606).

Add 12/20: DDOT and DPW handle and cite for uncleared sidewalks in public space. Call 311 to report. They will handle as fast as they can.

Let them know now or bookmark this post for the next storm.

ADDITION: If you rent a single-family home or your lease explicitly states that you are responsible for clearing the snow, not your landlord, then you can be cited as well. Be sure to call your landlord or review your lease terms if you are not sure.

– Mike Rupert

5 Comments on “#snOMG 2009 – Who’s Responsible for Clearing Snow in DC? DCRA Says It Depends.

  1. I’ve seen this same information in several places. I’m not concerned about my management company, they’ve done a commendable job keeping our sidewalks (both fronting on the street and to our private parking) very clear. I’m concerned about the nearby business (Rite-Aid near Franklin and Rhode Island, NE) and across the street (southbound Rhode Island and Franklin NE), which does not front on any business/home, but is where I have to go in the morning to catch my bus.

    In the end, my question is – how do I report these problem areas to the city to ensure they get taken care of? After the ice last year, my bus stop was never taken care of, and all I kept hearing was “it’s the property owner’s responsibility.” How do I know who owns the property if there’s no business? It’s one of those weird, small triangle pieces of land, not big enough to build on.

    • Thanks for the comment. You need to call 311 and let them know. DDOT and DPW will get to these locations as soon as possible. They are obviously focused on getting the roads clear with all resources but are making huge strides. Thanks again.

  2. Pingback: #snOMG « This Should Be Illegal

  3. Many thanks for this information. I had been wondering how to report negligent property owners to the city, as I have encountered daily several treacherous sidewalks that still have not been cleared 4 days after the storm and are getting icier by the day. I called the city (it’s 202-737-4404 if you have a non-DC cell phone) and was told that they would investigate.

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