If Owners Are Responsible For Sidewalk Maintenance, What About Liability?

By
Real Estate Agent with Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate 303829;0225082372

An interesting article by Michael Jacobs this morning got my attention. 

See: 

Attention Pasadena CA Sellers/Buyers -- The Housing Inspection Reportliability

However, it leads to the question, if owners are responsible for sidewalk maintenance, doesn't it follow that, if a sidewalk is in disrepair and poses a danger to passers-by, aren't those same home owners at risk for damages and payment for injuries suffered by folks walking, riding a bike, etc. on that sidewalk??

How many home buyers understand that they will be responsible for maintenance of that walk-way in front of their home?

While the article posted by Michael Jacobs applies only to a city in California, home owners across the country are at risk of liability for injuries suffered by individuals on sidewalks in disrepair.

Installation of sidewalks is often done by the municipality and paid for by the owner through a front foot benefit charge in their annual real estate tax bill.  The installation of the sidewalks, water, sewer, etc. installation can often be financed over decades, 20 plus years.  However, when repairs are needed to sidewalks, water/sewer components on the owner's property, the owner is faced with out of pocket charges that are not small amounts of money.

In communities with Homeowners' Associations or Condominium ownership, the association will maintain the "common elements" such as sidewalks, etc. 

Just another responsibility of home ownership of which many prospective home buyers are not aware.  Few cities will follow the Pasadena, CA example and have a municipal housing inspection prior to a sale of a property, however, home owners need to be aware of the risks of poor maintenance of these features that they may have taken for granted.

The time to determine responsibility for sidewalks, etc., is BEFORE buying, not after. 

 

Courtesy, Lenn Harley, Broker/Owner, Homefinders.com, 800-711-7988, serving home buyers in Maryland and Norther Virginia.

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Rainmaker
692,536
Clint Mckie
Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections - Carlsbad, NM
Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586

Hi Lenn,

I did a couple of posts about this very thing. The liability from a sidewalk in disrepair could be very costly.

There are a lot of insurance companies that exclude sidewalk maintenance and or liability as a coverage. To get coverage there needs to be a separate rider for just the sidewalks.  

Have a great day in Virginia.

Best, Clint McKie

Sep 10, 2012 04:05 AM #1
Rainmaker
1,993,979
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Franklin, MA
"New Franklin MA Homes"

Good morning, Lenn....very interesting.... in my area, the town pays for and maintains the sidewalks and roadways.... there's actually a law in MA and RI that unless the owner is warned in advance that the area is dangerous, and someone falls, that person has no grounds for a lawsuit....there has to be notification to the owner of that sidewalk about it's condition and danger....I guess the lawsuits were out of sight!!!

Sep 10, 2012 04:21 AM #2
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Brenda Mullen
RE/MAX Access - Schertz, TX
Your San Antonio TX Real Estate Agent!!

Wow Lenn-Either the HOAs or the city takes care of these things here, although it would be a good thing to make sure of just in case.  For those that need to be aware of this, you are right, before buying is the best way to find out about this.  I think I would be one angry person to find out that I was responsible for thousands of dollars in side walk repair if I was not expecting it.  

Sep 10, 2012 04:53 AM #3
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Richard Iarossi
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Crofton, MD
Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate

Now that I think about it, here in Crofton, MD the sidewalks are the responsibility of the homeowner, and thus, could be a liability as well. I wonder if I can put up a toll and charge people since I have to provide the maintenance?

Rich

Sep 10, 2012 05:36 AM #4
Rainmaker
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Michael Jacobs
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Pasadena, CA
PasadenaCA Real Estate Representation 818.516.4393

Good morning, Lenn -- thanks for referring to my post.  The city of Los Angeles(obviously much bigger than Pasadena) is considering charging homeowners/business owners for the repair of sidewalks due to the financial shortfall in the city's budget and the decaying infrastructure.   I also read that Piedmont - a California city near Oakland has a similar program in place.  It's an interesting topic, that's for sure.   

Sep 10, 2012 06:06 AM #5
Rainer
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Randy Ostrander
Lake and Lodge Realty LLC - Big Rapids, MI
Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI

Good morning Lenn. I listed a house once in a larger City south of my area and not only does the City demand you repair sidewalks PRIOR to close but they pretty much force you into using their crews. You don't have to but to use your own contractor it has to be permitted and reviewed by the City engineers both having fees that usually are higher than the repairs. Yikes. I would imagine with times getting tougher more municipalities will be trying to shift responsibility over to owners. Think liability insurance.

Sep 10, 2012 06:36 AM #6
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Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

Richard.  I wasn't thinking of Crofton, but there are many areas in MD where the home owner is responsible for sidewalk maintenance.

Michael.  I've seen the same thing here.  The county/city comes along, advises the home owners that sidewalk replacement/repairs will be forthcoming and they simply send each owner a bill for their footage of repairs.

Randy.  This is a topic of which few home buyers would be aware and same for many agents with little experience.  Stick around in the real estate sales business and you'll see everything.

Sep 10, 2012 09:36 AM #7
Rainmaker
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Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I was glad that no sidewalks were put in by my builder when we built the house.  Nothing to worry about cleaning the snow off of!

Sep 10, 2012 03:21 PM #8
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Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

Jay.  I agree.  I know many communities with no sidewalks.  Then again, some buyers will request a home with them.

Sep 10, 2012 03:42 PM #9
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George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages Connecticut - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Lenn I am going to have to check it out, but I am almost certain that here in Connecticut the homeowner is not only responsible for the sidewalk maintenance, but is also liable if someone is hurt on the sidewalk in front of their house.

Sep 10, 2012 04:22 PM #10
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Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

George.  Depending on the area, municipalities may differ, but I suspect that you'll find most homeowners are and don't even realize the risk they are in with hazardous conditions.  I've known of isolated communities in my area where that is the case for many years.  Of course, with HOAs things may change, but a homeowner needs to know.

 

Sep 11, 2012 03:17 AM #11
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Lenn Harley

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