Whose Responsibility is it to Clear Sidewalk Snow in Chicago?

Whose Responsibility is it to Clear Sidewalk Snow in Chicago?

One of the most frustrating parts of any major Chicago snow storm is an uncleared sidewalk that sits for days as a slushy mess.

Traversing snowy and icy sidewalks in the city can be a difficult and dangerous task. If you live in a neighborhood where residents and business owners regularly clear the paths for pedestrians, consider yourself lucky.

Despite sidewalk snow removal being the neighborly thing to do, many people are physically unable or refuse to do it. Clearing your sidewalk, however, also can protect you from liability from anyone who may slip and fall on your sidewalk, according to Illinois law.

Because municipalities own the land upon which sidewalks sit, one might assume that it’s the public body's responsibility to clear them of snow and ice. In most cases, that assumption is incorrect. 

What do Chicago laws say?

According to Chicago’s municipal code, residents and businesses are responsible for clearing sidewalks. The city requires that a 5-foot wide path be cleared by the owners of property that abut all sidewalks. That width allows for pedestrians in wheelchairs, people with children in strollers and students to safely use the sidewalks, the city says.

Find a complete guide to Chicago snow removal here, including information on fines for those that don’t adequately clear snow from sidewalks and how to report them.

How about the suburbs?

Research on Chicago's five largest suburbs shows some require residents and business owners to participate in sidewalk snow removal, while others only encourage it. Here’s what we found:

  • Aurora The city of Aurora requires all homeowners and business owners to clear the sidewalks. Those that do not face a $50 fine for each day snow is not removed. 
  • NapervilleThe city of Naperville also requires residents and business owners to clear sidewalks. The city also asks residents to clear areas around fire hydrants and utility meters.
  • Elgin The city of Elgin does not require anyone to remove snow and ice from sidewalks. Residents and business owners are only encouraged to do so.
  • Joliet Residents and business owners are asked to clear all sidewalks adjoining their property; however, fines are not levied for those that don’t.
  • Waukegan — Like Elgin, residents and business owners are only encouraged to remove snow from sidewalks. No policy is written into the municipal code. 

To find out what your local government requires, check their website, or call your public works department.

Need some help clearing snow and ice from around your home? Hire a Chicago-area professional or consult our snow removal guide.


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