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Am I responsible for clearing the snow on pavement outside my home?

13:57 19/01/2024

Many parts of Belgium are seeing the first real snowfall of the winter, and with it, some hazardous conditions for pedestrians and motorists.

But while local authorities will largely handle the roadways, making pavements safe to use is often the responsibility of residents – and rules and regulations apply.

These vary by location, but some are generally universal. For example: all regulations in Belgium forbid sledding or ice-skating on public roads.

Additionally, when clearing snow, it cannot be placed where it would block gutters and downpipes.

In most places in Brussels, pavements must be cleared and made non-slippery over a sufficient surface area that allows for safe movement, including by people with reduced mobility.

But some places go as far as to specific the exact width of snow clearance. In Brussels it’s the “entire width for pavements less than 1.50 metres wide and over a minimum width of 1.50 metres for wider pavements” while in Liège it’s “over a width of one metre along the facades”.

The person responsible for clearing the pavement is generally the owner of the property, but rules vary when it comes to renters.

In Liège, Charleroi and La Louvière, tenants must clear the pavement. In Brussels, the obligation is “incumbent on the owner and co-owner, any holder of a real right in the building or the tenant or the caretaker, porter, guardian or persons responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the premises”.

Some locations, including Liège, also stipulate the mandatory use of products that melt snow and ice. That product is not always road salt, whose use in some areas is regulated for environmental reasons.

Alternatives include ash, sawdust or wood shavings, which should then be swept away and disposed of as compost.

While people who were not home during a snow event and its aftermath cannot be held liable for injuries that occurred as a result of failing to clear the pavements for which they are responsible, they could be liable if they were able to clear the way and did not.

If an accident occurs, the responsibility could be shared, according to Wautier Robyns, spokesman for Assuralia, the federation of insurers. “For a pedestrian, for example, running to catch a bus, it could lead to a share of responsibility, as much as that of the resident who did not clear his piece of pavement."

It is always up to the victim to assert their rights in the case of an accident on an uncleared path. They can use witnesses to prove the location of the fall, as well as a police report for the injuries.