Mandatory snow clearing of footpaths is still relevant

11. február 2016  

Owners, administrators or users of real estate are without delay obliged to remove defects in the accessibility of footpaths adjacent to the real estate which is located in a continuously built up area and borders with the road or local road, if these defects are caused by dirt, ice or snow.

However, it is necessary to meet all three conditions simultaneously:  a footpath is adjacent to the real estate, the real estate is located in a continuously built up area and the real estate borders with the road or local road.  Even if only one condition is not met, the administrator of local roads is the responsible person.

In practice, it means that if a footpath meets all three conditions, the owner, administrator or user of real estate has to ensure during winter season that the footpath is clean and free of snow and ice. A typical example is a footpath belonging to the municipality, located in front of the family house, adjoining the main road.  The regular winter maintenance shall be cared for by the owner of the house, although the footpath is owned by the municipality.

A basic legal framework of this requirement is regulated in Art. 9 sec. 2 of the Road Act, detailed obligations in relation to winter maintenance are specified by generally binding regulations of towns and municipalities. They may specify the scope, method and time of maintenance, whether the owner, administrator or user of real estate is the responsible person etc.

If a pedestrian suffered damage to property or health, and the cause of the damage is a defect in the accessibility of footpath, which was created dirt, ice or snow and not removed without delay, the owner, administrator or user of real estate shall be liable for damages according to the Road Act. In addition, generally binding regulations of towns and municipalities may regulate sanctions for breach of these obligations.

The town of Liptovský Mikuláš regulates details of maintaining the accessibility of footpaths in a generally binding regulation no. 8/1992/VZN about creating the conditions of the quality environment and public order, as amended (hereinafter as the „VZN“).  According to VZN,  real estate users  are generally responsible for maintaining the accessibility of footpaths; in case of  the residential buildings it is its administrator, otherwise the owners  of the  residential building. VZN also defines other areas that need to be maintained, and to what extent. Snow and ice must be removed from the footpaths till 8 a.m. and repeatedly during the day, if necessary. Snow thrown or fallen from the roof to the footpath must be removed immediately.  VZN also defines which persons are exempt from the obligation to maintain the accessibility of footpaths (e.g. a person older than 70 years, disabled); it is necessary to apply for an exemption in writing.

In accordance with Art. 11, obligations imposed by VZN might be in some cases transferred to another person or entity by contract.

Pursuant to Article 51 of VZN, breach of this regulation may be sanctioned by a fine up to EUR 6638 in line with the Act No. 369/1990 Coll. on Municipalities, as amended.  It should be noted that such a fine can be only imposed to legal entity or natural person – entrepreneur, while the municipality shall take into account the seriousness, method, duration and consequences of the infringement, breach of several obligations and repeated misconduct. Breach of provisions of VZN by natural person shall be considered as an offence with a fine up to EUR 33.

Finally, it should be pointed out that in 2015 the Public Defender of Rights submitted a proposal to the Constitutional Court in order to verify if the mandatory snow clearing of footpaths by the citizens is in accordance with the Constitution and international conventions. According to the information available, the Constitutional Court has not yet ruled on the proposal.