Homeowners have ‘no legal obligation’ to clear footpaths of snow

Clarification on issue was sought from Attorney General

John Finnerty and John Finnerty jr clearing snow from their driveway in Dunboyne, Co Meath on Saturday. Photograph: Alan Betson

John Finnerty and John Finnerty jr clearing snow from their driveway in Dunboyne, Co Meath on Saturday. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

There is no legal obligation on people to clear the footpath in front of their homes or business premises, and no liability for any accident is created by doing so, as long as the footpath is not left in a more dangerous state afterwards, according to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

A spokesman for the department said that the matter was discussed in the context of the recent severe weather with the office of the Attorney General, Séamus Woulfe SC. He said that office had given similar advice some years ago during an earlier heavy snowfall.

According to Kieran Hickey, a climate change researcher at University College Cork, people were “terrified” of cleaning the pavement in front of their homes and premises in 2009 and in 2010 because they feared they would create a potential liability but the legal situation was then clarified by the Attorney General.

In other jurisdictions, where heavy snowfalls are a regular occurrence, there is a legal obligation to clear your footpath, Mr Hickey said.

He said he did not believe there is any need to invest heavily in snow-clearing equipment. While climate change might bring more snowfalls such as the recent one, it would not be every winter or anything close to that, he said.

In general our winters are getting milder. The snow was caused by a “cold air outburst” that was in turn caused by the warming of the air in the Arctic, he pointed out.