Does Your Association Understand Its Sidewalk Liability?

Leaves are falling and temperatures are dropping. Autumn is in full swing and winter will be here before you know it. And, that means the possibility of snow and ice. While we were still at the beach, the New Jersey Supreme Court announced its decision in the case of Qian v. Toll Brothers, Inc.

This August, the Court overturned two lower court rulings where for the purposes of residential sidewalk immunity, association-owned sidewalks could not be distinguished from public sidewalks bordering the Association. The rulings cited the 2011 NJ Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Luchejko v. City of Hoboken whereby a condominium association had no duty to maintain public sidewalks adjoining its property.

In this current case, Judge Barry Albin wrote for the court, “Who owns or controls the sidewalk, not who uses it, is the key distinguishing point between a public and private sidewalk.” So what does this mean for Community Associations?

This ruling found that in the case of a sidewalk privately owned by a common interest community, the common law residential public-sidewalk immunity does not apply – regardless of who uses the sidewalk. Associations have the duty to take reasonable measures to clear snow and ice from its sidewalks. Here are some tips to prepare for the upcoming winter season.
  1. Understand which sidewalks in and around your community are public and which are owned by the Association.
  2. Be diligent and hire reputable vendors for snow and ice removal. Be sure they have the proper insurance coverage.
  3. Consult your Association attorney for guidance on how this ruling may affect you.
Your professional community management company should be available to help guide you through this winter season. FirstService Residential, New Jersey’s leading community management company, has extensive experience in navigating changing legislation and proper vendor vetting. Contact us today to learn how we can help make sure your Association is not left out in the cold.