Legal Guide for Snow Removal in Alberta
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Legal Guide for Snow Removal in Alberta

Reading time: 7 minutes

Even though Alberta gets more than 300 days of sun a year, winter temperatures here are still pretty harsh. Annual snowfall averages about 137 inches, and because it’s landlocked, snow piles can sit on the ground for as long as 5 months or more. This makes snow removal a critical component of safe winters.

However, when and how homeowners remove and dispose of snow are tightly regulated. Here’s what to know about winter snow removal laws in Alberta and how a professional can help.

Snow Removal Professionals

Whose Responsibility Is It to Remove Snow In Alberta?

When snow falls in Alberta, it usually needs to be physically removed. The weather isn’t warm enough to melt the snow between storms, so piles of cleared ice and slush get bigger the more it snows.

Whether or not someone is required to remove snow generally depends on what property they own, where it’s located, and who uses the property. In most cases, snow removal responsibility falls to the municipality, the private owner of a residential property, or a renter.

Municipalities

In Section 532 of Alberta's Municipal Government Act, all cities and towns within the province are responsible for keeping roads and public places in a "reasonable state of repair.” This includes snow and ice removal. Municipalities can be legally liable for injuries or property damage if they allow snow, ice, or slush to accumulate on public roads and sidewalks.

Cities are typically in charge of clearing:

  • Priority roads of snow as soon as possible
  • Sidewalks and parking lots of municipal property
  • Pedestrian pathways, bridges, and overpasses
  • Public transit areas

Most cities and towns won’t clear:

  • Sidewalks that border private property
  • Sidewalks around public schools
  • Back roads or alleyways
  • Walkways between homes
  • Post office boxes
  • On-street parking spaces

Private Property Owners

Private property owners are treated the same way as commercial owners and must clear their sidewalks after a storm. However, the areas that must be cleared and the time frame for property owners to do it are usually a little more relaxed here.

While businesses should be clearing their public access areas immediately after the snow stops, homeowners often get 24–48 hours to do so, depending on the municipality. Sidewalks around the home must be cleared, and pathways leading to the home, porches, and around mailboxes should be, too.

Essentially, any space that a visitor to the home would use during normal engagement should be addressed. Back porches, sidewalks around the house, garden areas, and other private spaces generally don’t require clearing unless the property owner wants it done.

Landlords and Tenants

Under Alberta’s Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), landlords of multi-family properties are responsible for clearing snow and ice from building exteriors, sidewalks, stairs, landscaping, and common areas that are available for use by all residents.

Tenants of single-family properties and duplexes are responsible for removing snow on the parts of the property they enjoy private access to. In a duplex, each tenant must coordinate snow removal from the driveway, porch, and side of the sidewalk, even if the other tenant has not yet done so.

Commercial Property Owners

Owners of commercial properties like shopping malls, convenience stores, supermarkets, office buildings, and restaurants are required to clean any snow that has accumulated on their property as soon as possible. Usually, the managers are responsible for doing this if the snow falls on their shift. Still, any legal issues like slip and fall injuries will fall on the owner, regardless of their presence.

Typically, this includes clearing parking lots, sidewalks, stairs, entrances, and other spaces used by the patrons who frequent them. Commercial property owners and managers must do this immediately after the snow stops falling but before resuming business as usual.

It’s also important that companies clear areas explicitly used by employees. Loading docks, outdoor smoking areas, picnic tables, and other places employees use should also have the snow removed to prevent accidents and injuries.

To satisfy Alberta’s snow removal guidelines, municipalities typically create their own set of criteria that business owners must follow to ensure the city doesn’t face penalties. If snow is not cleared, towns can impose fines and other penalties on business owners who fail to keep their properties snow-free and safe.

Snow Removal Driveway

What Happens If Snow Is Not Removed?

Bylaws that determine how and when snow must be removed and what penalties homeowners and business owners face for failing to do so are largely determined by each municipality. For example:

  • In Edmonton, property owners could be charged a $100 fine for not maintaining their sidewalks, plus the cost of snow removal.
  • Calgary residents have 24 hours after the snow stops to clear their sidewalks. If this isn’t done, the occupant is charged up to $750 and may be required to appear in court. The property owner is separately charged $150 plus administration fees.
  • In Red Deer, if the property owner doesn't address the snow and ice cleanup, they might get a notice of offence. The County Peace Officers can either give a warning or jump straight to a violation tag or ticket, just like in other situations. If the snow and ice remain, the County could take action to clear it, and the property owner would be held liable to pay for it.

Alberta Snow Disposal Laws

How Alberta municipalities dispose of snow is regulated by the Ministry of Environment and Protected Areas. This is because snow, ice, and slush that fall on roads and parking lots are usually mixed with potentially hazardous contaminants. These include snowmelt salts, oil, phosphates, chemicals, and suspended solids like trash, cigarette butts, or old food. These substances could leach into the ground and nearby water supplies if not disposed of properly.

Guidelines for Snow Disposal Sites

Waste snow must not be disposed of in water supplies, rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water due to the risk of contamination of local ground and drinking water. At a minimum, Alberta requires disposal sites to be located 200 or more meters away from any water body, public or not.

Snow should be disposed of at meticulously planned sites designed to minimize the environmental impact of potentially hazardous snow melt. These sites should not be in or next to a landfill since this increases the rate of landfill leachate. This liquid forms when rain and melted snow seep through the garbage and leach out toxins, chemicals, and other harmful compounds from the waste.

Waste snow should also not be disposed of on agricultural land, near groundwater aquifers, areas with high water tables, sites with above or below-ground utility cables, or near residential housing. Ideally, the area should drain well and be positioned in such a way that it receives maximum sun exposure to increase the speed of snowmelt. Small children should never be allowed to play in or around snow piles that may contain pollutants.

The Benefits of Professional Snow Removal Services In Alberta

Shoveling snow is tough. Hiring a professional to remove accumulated snow on your property has many benefits. Professional snow removal services in Alberta can help:

  • Reduce your liability for injuries caused by snow or ice
  • Keep your home looking great
  • Provide cleaner and more streamlined curb appeal
  • Maintain accessibility for disabled visitors
  • Lower the risk of property damage
  • Prevent snow melt from contaminating public spaces
  • Avoid fines assessed for failure to remove and dispose of snow

When you hire a snow removal specialist, you get peace of mind that the right spaces will be cleared at the right time, and the snow will be disposed of in the right place. You don’t have to worry about people slipping and falling on your property or piles of dirty snow sticking around for months outside your home. And you’ll never get fined for forgetting to remove your snow or not having the time or physical ability to do it.

Snow Night Driveway
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Why Green Drop Is Your Alberta Snow Clearing Expert

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