Snow Removal. Does the ADA, Fair Housing Act Protect Your Rights?

 In #zerobarriers, Freedom Friday
A picture of someone who is up to their shoulders in a snow covered ditch. Photo credit: Travis Johnson

Snow covered sidewalks and entryways can cover routes, making it difficult to get through. Photo credit: Travis Johnson











It is that time of year again.  Falling snow covers sidewalks and roads, making travel difficult.  It is a common theme every year to discuss the Fair Housing Act as well as the ADA for snow removal guidelines.  Under the Fair Housing Act, persons with disabilities must be able to enter their dwellings through the main entrance.  Also, the accessible route cannot be remote, hidden or require extended travel to access.

Time Limits on Snow Removal?

As far as how much time is allowed for snow removal, that is not mentioned in the ADA or Fair Housing Act.   The ADA contains the following statements that may pertain to this issue:

35.133 Maintenance of accessible features

(a) A public entity shall maintain in operable working condition those features of facilities and equipment that are required to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities by the Act or this part.

(b) This section does not prohibit isolated or temporary interruptions in service or access due to maintenance or repairs.

Is Snow Removal considered maintenance?

Snow removal may come under maintenance. Therefore, temporary interruptions are allowed.

What about sidewalks?

The following table contains information for sidewalks from several local city ordinances in Freedom’s service area. Portions of the ordinances are included farther down in this document.

City Time for snow removal
Fargo Within 24 hr of end of snowfall
Moorhead By 9pm after snowfall stops
West Fargo Within 48 hr of end of snowfall
Dilworth Within 12 hr of end of snowfall
Fergus Falls Within 24 hr of end of snowfall
Valley City Within 24 hr of end of snowfall
Jamestown No time found
Detroit Lakes Residential 72hr, commercial 24 hr after deposit
Lisbon 10:00am each day
Wahpeton Business 10:00am  others 24hr after snowfall
Breckenridge 18hr after deposit

In summary, the ADA and Housing do not describe an exact time for snow removal. Local ordinances may have times listed to clear sidewalks. In cases involving rental property, the lease agreement may contain information about snow removal.  Here are snow removal ordinances from a few local communities.


Sidewalk Snow Removal

The Street Department maintains approximately 34 miles of City-owned sidewalk, including flood buy-out properties. Snow removal begins following the end of the snow fall.

Residents/Commercial businesses are required to clear their sidewalk of snow and ice within 24 hours of the end of the snowfall. If snow is not removed from the sidewalk within this time frame, and the property is turned in, the property will receive a visit and subsequent notice from the city’s sidewalk inspector. If the sidewalk is not cleared within 24 hours of this notice, the inspector will have the work completed and the owner will be responsible for the associated costs.

To report a public or private sidewalk that has not been cleared within the 24 hour time frame, please visit FargoOne and choose the Streets/Sidewalks tab or contact the Sidewalk Snow Inspector.


Sidewalk Snow Removal

Sidewalk snow removal is important to the safety and convenience of the many people using our city sidewalks for transportation each day, including school children, mail and newspaper carriers, walkers, and runners.

Whose job is it?

The City of Moorhead is responsible for street snow removal and sidewalks adjacent to city properties. Individual property owners are responsible for snow removal on the sidewalks adjacent to their property.

What’s the rule?

The City code standard requires that sidewalks must be cleared of snow and ice by 9 pm after it stops snowing. Here are some other important tips:

  • If you live on a corner, all sidewalks must be cleared, including the crosswalk approaches.
  • Do not shovel snow onto neighboring properties or into the street.
  • Do not blow snow beyond your neighbor’s fence line.
  • Make arrangements with a neighbor or a snow removal service to care for your property if you are going to be on vacation or are otherwise unable to shovel your walk in a timely way.
  • Consider helping your neighbors with snow removal when they are out of town or when health issues become obstacles.

How do I make a report?

If you notice a property in Moorhead that has an un-shoveled public sidewalk, please make a report or call the Neighborhood Services Division at 218.299.5434. Your name will not be released to the property owner.

What happens next?

Inspectors will leave a door hanger at the property with a short compliance timeline as a courtesy reminder when sidewalks are not cleared in a timely way. If the walks are not cleared by the compliance date, the City will hire the snow removal so that walkways are safe. The property owner will be charged for the cost of the service plus an administrative penalty ($100). Further violations at the same property within one year are charged an administrative penalty at the time the complaint is verified and no compliance period is given before the City hires the snow removal. Unpaid snow removal charges and penalties are assessed to the property.

How often do I have to shovel the snow on my sidewalks during the winter?

West Fargo

Snow must be removed from the sidewalks within 48 hours of the last snow event. It is unlawful to push snow onto public property, including streets, boulevards, sidewalks, park property, or adjoining private property without permission from the property owner.


No owner or occupant of any property in front of which or adjacent to which a sidewalk has been construed for use of public shall allow any accumulation of snow or ice to remain upon said sidewalk for a period which exceed 12 hours after snow or ice has ceased to fall thereon.

Fergus Falls

Property Owner Responsibilities

If your property is adjacent to a sidewalk, it is your responsibility to maintain it and keep it safe for pedestrians year-round.

Snow and ice accumulation on a sidewalk is considered a public nuisance and must be removed within 24 hours after a snowfall.

If the sidewalk is considered a public nuisance, the City can order removal of the nuisance material and have the cost of removal assessed to your property.

It is unlawful to remove snow from private or public property and place in the public street.

Valley City

Property owners or occupants are expected to remove all snow from their sidewalk within 24 hours after a snowfall ceases. Failure to do so, may cause the Street Department to remove the snow and the cost will be assessed against the property by special assessment, in the manner prescribed by law (Section 23-15 of the Valley City Revised Ordinances).


The occupant or owner of each lot or parcel of land and the owner of each unoccupied lot or parcel within the city, adjoining any street, and along which sidewalks have been built, shall clear the sidewalks and shall keep clear sidewalks along such lot or parcel of land all accumulations of snow and ice. It is an offense for the owner of any lot in the city to fail to remove from such sidewalk in front of or along any lot therein the ice or snow. The snow and ice may be removed by the city, and the necessary expense thereof shall be chargeable against the abutting lot or property.

The owner or occupant of any lot or parcel of land that is allowed by the City Engineer’s Office to deposit snow or ice from sidewalks onto the city streets adjoining that property shall do so prior to the city removing snow and ice from that adjoining street. It is an offense to deposit snow or ice on any city street after the city has plowed or cleared snow and ice from that street.

Violation of this section is a class B misdemeanor under the general penalty.

It shall be unlawful for any person to remove snow, slush or ice from private property or from any driveway, curb cut, or sidewalk and deposit the same upon the surface of any street or alley within the city. The snow and ice may be removed by the city and the necessary expense thereof shall be chargeable against the abutting lot or property.


Violation of this section is a class B misdemeanor under the general penalty.





 11-501.  SNOW AND ICE: REMOVAL OF FROM SIDEWALKS REQUIRED WHEN. The owner or occupant of each and every lot, tenement, or building in the City shall at all times keep the sidewalk along and upon such premises clear, clean, and free from snow and ice. Every such person shall cause such sidewalk to be so cleaned and cleared from snow and ice before ten o’clock (10:00) A.M. each day.

11-502.  SAME: TO BE REMOVED BY CITY, WHEN. In case of the failure, neglect, or refusal of any such owner or occupant of such lot or premises to clean such sidewalk before ten o’clock (10:00) A.M., each day or to keep the same clean and free from snow and ice as aforesaid, then the Street Commissioner or other proper City official, shall cause the same to be cleaned up and kept clear and free from snow and ice and shall report, in writing, to the City Auditor the cost and expense thereof together with a particular description of each piece, parcel, or tract of property upon which such labor shall be done. The City Auditor shall cause the same to be assessed against said property as special tax.


Duty of business or commercial enterprise to remove. It is the duty of any person or entity engaged in a business or commercial enterprise on property abutting and the owner of real property abutting a public sidewalk to remove accumulations of snow and ice no later than 10:00 a.m. of the enterprise’s next business day

It shall be the duty of every owner of premises fronting on a public street or avenue to keep the sidewalk in front of the same unobstructed, clean and in good order and repair and to remove accumulations of snow and ice upon the same within 24 hours of a snowfall, snowstorm or ice storm. The owner of any lot or piece of land abutting any sidewalk in the city shall not allow or permit earth or other substances from such lot or piece of land, to wash or accumulate upon any such walk, and in the event that any earth or other substance shall wash or accumulate upon any such walk, it shall be the duty of the owner of the abutting lot or piece of land, to remove the same and failure to do so shall be in violation of this chapter. Hopefully this, coupled with warmer weather can help to clear some things up out there.

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