Are you responsible for the damaged sidewalks in front of your home or business? Is it up to the city to keep walkways clear? What role does your homeowner association play in sidewalk safety?
These can be difficult questions to answer – the truth is that it varies depending on city, state, or other local laws. But in many areas, sidewalk upkeep falls on the property owner.
At A-1 Concrete Leveling, we have locations all over the US, and over the last 30+ years repairing sidewalks and other concrete issues, we’ve seen it all.
This article will serve as a general overview of sidewalk repair responsibility, but keep in mind that your local area may do things differently than what’s discussed here.
Property owners are responsible for repairing and maintaining public sidewalks that border their properties in many cities and municipalities.
Property owners may even be held liable for injuries due to damaged or unmaintained public sidewalks if they knew about the issue and did not repair it.
In many cities and municipalities, it’s up to the property owner to repair and maintain public sidewalks that border their property.
This can be surprising for many people, as it seems like maintaining public sidewalks would be the local government’s responsibility. But this is a common misconception as the responsibility (and liability) often falls on the property owner.
For example, the City of Cincinnati says:
“In the City of Cincinnati, per Cincinnati Municipal Code, the property owner is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk adjacent to their property.”
Likewise, the City of Minneapolis says,
“The cost of the construction and repair of the public sidewalks in the City of Minneapolis is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner.
When property owners receive a sidewalk repair notice, they have two options:
- Hire a private sidewalk contractor to do the required repairs; or
- Allow the City-hired contractor to repair the sidewalk, and have the City bill for the cost of replacement.”
On the other hand, Denver, Colorado is an example of a different approach:
“In November 2022, a citizen-led ballot initiative approved by voters, known as Denver Deserves Sidewalks and Ordinance 307, shifted the responsibility of sidewalk construction and maintenance to the city and established a fee the city is to charge property owners to fund the sidewalk work.”
Liability for sidewalk slip and fall accidents can fall on the property owner, the government, or both, depending on the laws and regulations in your state or city.
This means that if the sidewalk is damaged or unmaintained and someone slips and falls on it, the property owner could be held liable if proven negligent.
Here are some examples of dangerous sidewalk conditions:
- Trip hazards due to raised or sinking slabs
- Uneven slope
- Loose concrete
- Snow or ice
- Overgrown plants and vegetation
If you’re a business or public-facing entity, you also have to make sure to comply with ADA sidewalk requirements to avoid potential lawsuits, fines, and other issues.
The level of responsibility for sidewalk repair will vary within each HOA and based on local laws and regulations. But in many cities and municipalities, the property owner is responsible for the public sidewalks abutting their property, even if part of an HOA.
Sidewalk repair may be a shared responsibility. According to HOA-USA.com, “sidewalks to pools, clubhouses, tennis courts, etc., and other common areas will likely be the responsibility of the association.”
If you have a problem with your sidewalk, check your specific HOA agreement or get in contact with your association to see who is responsible for the repair.
Many cities and municipalities hold the property owner responsible for the sidewalk repair, regardless of how it was damaged.
For example, New York City says:
“As the property owner, you are responsible for building or repairing the sidewalks next to your property and maintaining them in a reasonably safe condition.
Regardless of what or who caused the damage, you will be liable for any violations and fines accrued by the damaged sidewalks.”
If you know that someone else damaged the sidewalk in front of your property, like a utility company, be sure to document the damage and reach out to them to learn about their policy for repairing or reimbursing for property damage.
If the sidewalk repair and maintenance is up to you as the property owner in your city or municipality, you have some options:
Concrete leveling (also known as “concrete lifting” or “concrete raising”) raises settled slabs back up to an even position without the high cost and hassle of tearing out the sidewalk and replacing it.
Concrete leveling can help with uneven slopes, trip hazards, and tree roots lifting the sidewalk.
Grinding down the trip hazards on an uneven sidewalk can be a quick and cheap way to make the walkway safer and reduce liability.
Grinding the sidewalk does come with some downsides, like making the slab weaker and more prone to damage, or the patchy appearance left behind.
Related Resource: Concrete Grinding vs. Leveling vs. Replacement
The most expensive and time-consuming option is to replace the damaged sidewalk slabs altogether. This may be the best option if the sidewalk is heavily cracked, crumbling, or tree roots are raising it too far out of place.
Adding Extra Concrete
You can add patching compounds or additional concrete to the affected area to smooth out trip hazards.
However, this is usually only a temporary fix as it’s hard to get the new concrete to properly bond with the existing slab. As the concrete expands and contracts naturally, the patch will likely begin to chip off.
Local Government or HOA Repairs
Some cities have programs to work with property owners to fix sidewalks or cost-share the repairs, like in St. Louis, MO. Other areas have programs in place to manage sidewalk complaints and get property owners connected with contractors.
If you’re part of an HOA, they may work with contractors and repair the sidewalk for you, depending on your agreement.
To answer this question for your particular case, the first step is to check with your city or local public works department to find out whose responsibility the sidewalk is.
If it is your responsibility as the property owner, be sure to take care of any damage or maintenance as soon as possible so you are not held liable for injuries or fines due to the damaged sidewalk abutting your property.
Here at A-1 Concrete Leveling, we’ve been helping homeowners lift and even out their settled sidewalks for over 30 years. If you’re interested in learning how concrete leveling or our other concrete repair services can help you restore your sidewalk, click the link below to request a free onsite cost estimate: