...And I'm not BS-ing you--Rahm actually said it.
There was a time when common belief considered falling snow an act of God (well, you know it actually kind of is) and that building owners and homeowners were not “required” to clear paths.
Then even when the laws were put on the books to require owners to clear snow, those laws were so lenient and rarely enforced that many didn’t take them seriously. Lots of violators either ignored the tickets or somehow got them reduced to $0—including the company who got the sweet parking meter deal from the City per this Channel 5 News report.
However there have been some recent changes to the law which might catch some owners by surprise. Keep in mind we live a cash-strapped city (and state) which is exploring many ways to generate new revenue. When you look out the window at the swirling white stuff, don't get tempted to stay inside with your hands wrapped around a cup of hot cocoa. Even with marshmallows. Yes, I know. I know. Keeping your walks cleared has always been the right thing to do, but here are some important points to give you even more incentive than just being a good neighbor:
- The new regulations took effect November 28, 2015.
- These regulations apply to anyone who owns a building in Chicago—including single family home owners. It also applies to business owners who RENT space in a building. See this excerpt from the City’s website:
"the new sidewalk snow regulations affect all home, business, and property owners in Chicago. Business owners that rent space adjacent to sidewalks are responsible for shoveling snow under the ordinance" (unless otherwise indicated in the lease agreement; see City’s site for more info).
- Snow must be cleared seven days a week (meaning there are no weekend moratoriums).
- Fines range from $50 to $500.
- There are specific time deadlines that snow must be cleared when it falls within a certain time range.
- The days of shoveling a narrow path that could only be navigated in “DUI-heel-to-toe” fashion are gone. Now the City says, “You must clear a path at least 5 feet wide on all of the sidewalks adjacent to your property…” Not only does this help elderly residents, children and those with mobility challenges, city sidewalks are technically supposed to be wheelchair accessible.
There are some silver linings among Chicago snow politics. The City offers resources to help those for whom snow shoveling poses a hardship. There is also an award offered to those who are good snow citizens:
- The Chicago Snow Corps program connects volunteers with residents who need assistance with snow removal - such as seniors and residents with disabilities.
- You can also contact your Aldermanic Ward Office to ask about volunteer snow shoveling services for qualified residents.
- The City’s site says, “Some landlords for residential and commercial property hold tenants responsible for snow clearance as a part of their lease agreements, other don't. Renters who aren't certain of their shoveling responsibilities should check their rental agreements or ask their landlords for clarification.” So, before you present your next lease to a rental applicant, find out how this can apply to you.
- If you are already a Snow Shoveling Superstar, you should be recognized for your good efforts. The City of Chicago and the Mayor's Pedestrian Advisory Council (MPAC) issue the “Winter Wonder Award” to businesses and building owners who do a particularly good job of clearing their sidewalks. Find out how to be nominated for this award and maybe you can use it to market your units to prospective tenants.
- Check out this link to an excellent site by a local real estate firm (Atty Richard Magnone's "Chicagoeviction.com: A Blog for Landlords"). It gives more detailed information on civil liability and instances when the responsibility for clearing snow can be legally shifted to the tenants of a building.
Finally, if you are like me and many other landlords and you shovel your own snow please be careful. Keep in mind that the physical exertion used in shoveling (especially wet, heavy snow) is not an uncommon cause of weather related deaths during this time of year. While I always advocate saving money where you can, clearing your walkways might be one of those tasks worth paying for to avoid the hassles. Cheers!
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