Is The Sidewalk Your Property? Understanding Your Sidewalk Responsibility

Is The Sidewalk Your Property? Understanding Your Sidewalk Responsibility


Sidewalk is an urban planning term for a paved pedestrian path along the side of a road. The sidewalk is the property of the city (or country, depending on where you live). You can walk on it, but you cannot paint it, put up a sign advertising your business, or leave your trash there.

The most common misconception people have about sidewalks is that they are public property—they are not.

Sidewalks typically belong to the municipal (or federal) government and most often will be owned by either a town or county with no specific owner assigned.

The City, The State, Or You Are In Charge Of Maintaining Sidewalks?

One question remained unanswered in the wake of the hole in the sidewalk in front of the Dew Drop Inn in Goshen: The city or the property owner is ultimately responsible for the upkeep of the sidewalks.

According to the city of Goshen’s code—that’s a little murky.

However, the code doesn’t explicitly state who is responsible for maintaining the property or who owns it. Sidewalks, on the other hand, fall within Title 3, section 3 of the code’s definition of public right of way.

‘Public right of way’ is defined as “any street; avenue; boulevard; highway; road; thoroughfare; sidewalk; lane; or any other property owned or controlled by the governmental entity.”

According to the same section, “public property” refers to all land, buildings, parks, and waterways that are owned or controlled by a government agency.

New construction in the city may include sidewalks as part of the public right of way.

When a new neighborhood is created, the developer usually installs new sidewalks.

A maintenance bond is issued to keep the public right of way in the city (an agreement between the city and the developer for any repairs needed in a set amount of time, typically three years, where the developer is responsible).

As soon as that deadline has passed, the city would assume responsibility for the cleanup (for maintenance). Streets are a different story, though.

By these definitions, public property includes sidewalks, just as public property includes streets. There is a logical connection between maintaining city streets and maintaining city sidewalks because the city is in charge of both.

As a result of state regulations and property lines, however, this is not true.

It is called “Barrett Law Funding for Counties and Municipalities” in Indiana state code Title 36, Article 9, Sections 36. When it comes to sidewalks, this section goes into great detail as to who is responsible for dealing with them.

“The works board may order the owners of adjoining land to install or repair the owners’ own sidewalks or curbs if the works board.”

Is The Boundary Of My Property Defined By The Sidewalk Or The Curb?

Neither of those is likely to be the correct answer.

Before we can answer this question, we must first determine whether your street is public (meaning that the municipality/county/state owns the right of way for the road) or private (meaning that you may own the property on which the road is located but there is an easement in place allowing the land to be used for access).

If your street is public, your property ownership will be determined by the width of the right of way. The right of way in most residential neighborhoods is designed to be 50 feet wide.

The actual paved road width is about half of that, or 25 feet, of the 50 feet.

That means the municipality/county has an additional 25 feet of right-of-way land that is not paved but is available for use. If they build the road in the center of the right of way, they will have an extra 12.5 feet on either side of the road.

The curb, sidewalk, and possibly utility lines are usually found within that 12.5 feet.

So, if you want to know where your front property line is, go to the middle of the street, measure 25 feet toward your house, and that is your front property line.

You may own a portion of the land where your private road is located if you own a private road. The widths of private rights-of-way vary greatly. They can be as small as 10 feet wide and as large as 100 feet wide.

If you want to know how big the public right of way or private easement area is, you can get a copy of the subdivision plat. It should be clearly marked along the road.

You can also employ a land surveyor to locate your property for you so that you know where your ownership begins and ends.

Understanding Your Sidewalk Responsibility

If there is a sidewalk in front of your house, you should find out whether or not it is your obligation. You should be able to find out by calling or visiting your local municipal office, or you may be able to find out by visiting your community’s website.

This is especially true if you reside in a snowy environment, as it is your responsibility to clear the sidewalk if regulations state that sidewalks are the responsibility of the homeowner.

Often, the homeowner is held accountable and responsible for certain sidewalk issues, such as snow clearance, while the municipality is held accountable for others.

Depending on the circumstances, both parties may be held accountable. That is why, before difficulties emerge, it is critical to determine who is in charge of what when it comes to sidewalk upkeep.

Sidewalk Laws In San Francisco Have Changed

Private property owners in San Francisco were previously responsible for sidewalk maintenance when street trees were involved.

Tree roots can grow beneath sidewalks, causing uneven pavement that can cause trips and falls. Property owners are responsible for other types of sidewalk damage, but not damage caused by street trees, as of July 1, 2017.

However, if the tree damage existed before July 1, 2017, the property owner is still liable.

If someone trips and falls on your sidewalk, how can you prove tree damage existed before the cutoff date? It will be difficult unless you have dated photos or video of the sidewalk condition, or the damage was reported to the city.

If you are sued, your insurance company will most likely provide you with an attorney to fight the case, though a settlement is more likely.

Suburbs And Small Towns Vs. Large Cities

Although laws vary, larger cities will generally pay for sidewalk maintenance. That isn’t always the case in suburbs and small towns, where the private property owner is responsible not only for clearing debris and snow from the sidewalk, but also for repairs and replacement.

It is also determined by the type of property. In a typical subdivision, the homeowner is solely responsible for sidewalk maintenance; however, if the subdivision is governed by a homeowner’s association, that entity may be in charge of sidewalk maintenance.

Find out the rules for sidewalk upkeep if you live in a community with a homeowners’ association.

Sidewalk Repair Cost

Though most homeowners feel their property boundary ends at their grass, in many towns, residents are responsible for maintaining the shared sidewalks in front of their homes.

Sidewalks are vulnerable to damage from heavy traffic, root growth, and harsh weather. Maintaining your sidewalk can be an expensive undertaking, but many governments provide programs to help with the financial load of sidewalk repair.

Cost Accountability

City rules govern the decision of financial liability for sidewalk repairs. The municipal Department of Public Works is in charge of sidewalk upkeep and repair in various cities.

Many cities, however, defer at least a portion of the cost of sidewalk repair to the next homeowner.

Though individual communities have the right to select who pays for sidewalk repairs, many states have policies that are similar throughout cities.

For example, many big communities in Massachusetts bear the entire cost of sidewalk repairs, whereas most cities in California pass the cost of repairs on to homeowners.

Definitions of Property Lines

In rare cases, the property boundary may extend all the way to the curb, past the sidewalk. This means that public walkways are theoretically on your property, which might generate problems with public use.

Imagine being the only house on the street that fences off your section of the sidewalk, forcing everyone else to walk in the street to go around!

That isn’t ideal, so many municipalities will do everything they can to avoid this issue.

Your property boundary may stretch all the way into the middle of the street in other regions. Again, if someone wishes to get technical about property definitions, this presents a big public use issue.

Most typically, public roadways are described as being longer than the curb-to-curb distance, implying that the “road” might potentially extend into your front yard.

This makes it easier for municipalities to access the road, sidewalks, utilities, and trees or shrubs on public property (and gives tetchy property owners less opportunity to cause additional hassles! )

However, even if the city or county owns a portion of your yard, homeowners are still responsible for maintaining their trees, shrubs, and walkways. Make certain you understand who is in charge of these objects.

Who Owns The Sidewalk In NYC?

There are nearly 12,000 miles of sidewalks in New York City. New Yorkers can safely walk, use a wheelchair, or push a stroller or shopping cart on smooth, even sidewalks that are free of faults and debris.

Pedestrian safety and accessibility are top priorities for the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT).

For the NYC DOT, sidewalk safety is a top priority, as is reducing the number of injuries caused by dangerously deteriorated surfaces.

Over the course of a year, the City replaces more than two million square feet of sidewalk on City-owned property and in predominantly one, two, and three-family residential districts.

Sidewalks should be smooth and devoid of holes or fractures. Property owners in NYC are responsible for repairing and clearing their neighboring sidewalks of snow, ice, and other debris.

Section 19-152 of New York City’s Administrative Code states that property owners are responsible for building, repairing, and maintaining sidewalks adjacent to their premises.

Personal injuries caused by property owners’ failure to keep the sidewalk free of defects are possibly accountable (Section 7-210 of the New York City Administrative Code).

Property owners are encouraged to fix their sidewalks before a condition becomes a flaw that may result in a Notice of Sidewalk Violation.

Side Walk Violation and Repair

Sidewalk deficiencies can result in a fine for the property owner, including:

  • Uneven flags with more than a half-inch vertical difference
  • Flags that flutter in the wind
  • Undermined flags whose emptiness is clearly seen.
  • Flags with visible cracks that are easily removed
  • Flags are unable to drain to the curb due to an incorrect slope.
  • Missing flags or a sidewalk that was never built

The DOT inspects sidewalks where injuries have been recorded and then develops these guidelines. The tiniest of holes or the slightest of variances in height between sidewalk squares or flags can cause serious injury.

No Sidewalk In Front Of House

How can I be held liable for the sidewalk in front of my property if I don’t own it?

This is a policy that can be found in many American cities. Because sidewalks are typically made of concrete and last a long time, the adjacent property owner is responsible for maintaining and replacing them.

However, the frequency with which a sidewalk is repaired or replaced is frequently closely connected to how well it is maintained.

However, sidewalks are not required to be maintained by the property owner next door. ADA-compliant ramps have become a priority for many communities since they were passed in 1991.

As a result, the curb’s radius has been extended to incorporate the sidewalk at crossings. What one should keep in mind is that even though the government is capable of maintaining and replacing anything the people want, the government would need additional funds in order to do so.

Therefore, those who want the government to take over responsibility for sidewalks should approach the city and propose additional revenue, such as property taxes.

Additional cash from property owners could allow the City to assume responsibility for repairs and replacements.

In Conclusion

Before you purchase a home, consider researching the local laws and ordinances, as well as the rights of the people living on your street.

You should also be aware of whether or not you have to pay for any sidewalk repairs in your area.

Finally, keep in mind that if your property abuts the public property, it is possible that someone might sue you for injuries sustained.

Though the law varies from state to state, property owners are generally held responsible for anything that happens on their land and sidewalks.

Sidewalk FAQS

Is the sidewalk your property?

In most cases, sidewalks are considered to be public property, meaning that they are owned by the city or municipality in which they reside.

However, in some cases, sidewalks may be considered to be private property, meaning that they are owned by the individual or business who constructed them.

If a sidewalk is considered to be private property, the city or municipality may still be responsible for maintaining it, depending on the laws of the particular jurisdiction.

If you think otherwise regarding who owns what in your yard, please contact your local municipal authorities to discuss this matter in detail.

Who is responsible for sidewalk repair or replacement?

Regardless of who owns the property, if you live next to a sidewalk, you’re responsible for keeping it safe and free from damage.

As a property owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure that the sidewalks are safe and well maintained so as not to cause injury. If someone trips and falls on your property, you could be held accountable for their injuries.

Why do I have to fix the sidewalk?

Property owners in some cities must repair their sidewalks under certain conditions. Sidewalks can be replaced with concrete, asphalt, or stone.

In the majority of states and municipalities in North America, property owners are responsible for keeping their own sidewalks clear of snow and ice during winter months (weather permitting).

If a person injures themselves on your sidewalks due to your negligence, you may be sued.

If there are cracks or holes in the sidewalk, who is responsible for repairing them?

The property owner has to fix the broken pavement which is in front of his or her house. If a person is injured because of a cracked or broken pavement, he can file a claim against the property owner for not maintaining it properly.

Is the sidewalk part of someone’s property?

Landowners in California are responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in front of their property in a safe and useful way, despite the fact that towns and counties often own the sidewalks close to private property.

Who owns the land between the sidewalk and the curb?

For the most part, the owner of the property is responsible for any repairs or maintenance. The sidewalk is frequently included in this (but not the curbing, if present.) A cost-sharing arrangement is in effect in some towns when it comes to replacing sidewalks.

Is a sidewalk considered an easement?

Every property has at least one easement on it One way to think of an easement is as the permission to utilize someone else’s land without actually owning it. There are a lot of easements granted to neighboring properties to build driveways, roads and walkways.

What are my responsibilities if a pedestrian injures themselves on the sidewalk in front of my house?

If someone gets injured on your property, you may be held liable. A pedestrian can sue both you and the city if they’re injured while walking on your property. The city can also be sued if they choose not to maintain a sidewalk.

How much do I owe on sidewalk repairs?

The amount of money you owe will vary depending on the nature of the damage, whether you have insurance coverage and what kind portions of your property are affected.

Cracks and holes on the sidewalk: If you need to have a concrete sidewalk, new pavement or a cement walkway installed in your front yard, you will have to pay for the labor costs and materials needed for the job.

Can you plant between the sidewalk and the street?

The short answer is yes. However, there are other situations that can come up, especially if you want to install a row of bushes.

To get permission from the city to plant anything between the sidewalk and curb, contact the city’s Public Works Department.

Can I replace my old sidewalk with a new one?

The property owner is responsible for repairing and/or replacing sidewalks, often as part of their property taxes. If you replace your sidewalk because it is damaged, it’s probably up to you to pay for the construction costs.

Are you supposed to shovel your sidewalk?

If you own property, when the snow has stopped falling, you must shovel your sidewalk. The specifics vary from place to place, but the principles remain the same: if you own property, you must shovel your sidewalk.

Can I repair my own sidewalk?

Sidewalks are usually repaired at the expense of the property owners. Sidewalks that belong to public infrastructure are repaired by the city.

Is it legal to charge people to walk on my sidewalk?

If someone were to ask you if they can walk on your sidewalk, you might want to make them pay a small fee for it. This might be illegal.

To charge someone for walking on your property is considered trespassing, so you cannot do that.

How many feet from the curb does the city own?

The first five feet of your property do not belong to the government; you do. The problem is that you may believe that your property begins before it actually does. Road allowances are common in North American communities, and the municipality owns them.

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