Expat Tips for Germany • “die Verpflichtung zum Reinigen, Schneeräumen und Streuen auf Gehwegen”
Guidelines for Winter:
Ice and Snow Removal in Germany
As with most things, the Germans have very specific rules and regulations (die Satzung) concerning who is responsible for keeping roads, walkways, driveways and paths safe in the winter.
There are similar laws concerning Winterpflichten (winter obligations) and Räum- und Streupflicht (shoveling and sanding obligations) in Austria and Switzerland. Since you can be sued for not carrying out your “winter duties,” it is a good idea for expats to know what they are and what the law requires.
Also see: New winter tire requirements in Germany!
Who has to do what?
Virtually every town or city in Germany and the other German-speaking countries has a set of rules and regulations called the “Straßenreinigungssatzung” (“street cleaning statute”) or “Satzung über die Verpflichtung zum Reinigen, Schneeräumen und Streuen auf Gehwegen” (“statute concerning the obligation for the cleaning, removal of snow, and sanding on walkways”) – or something similar. Most communities have these regulations posted on the town’s official Web site (usually www.stadt.de and only in German).
Clearing snow off the roads is the responsibility of the community (Gemeinde), but, as in the US, only the main roads may be plowed after a big snow storm. Residential streets may not be cleared at all. When it comes to sidewalks and walkways, the town fathers almost always pass that duty on to homeowners.
In general, homeowners and landlords in German-speaking Europe are required to remove snow and ice from walkways on their property or in front of their property. Since landlords can and usually do pass this responsibility on to their tenants, renters also need to know about any possible winter duties. However, if you live in a large apartment building, the Hausmeister, building manager, or someone else usually takes care of the grounds and walkways. (See more about renters below.)
The snow-shoveling requirements are spelled out in great detail, even down to the minimum width of the cleared area (70 to 120 cm) and the time during which you must keep snow cleared away (from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on weekdays) – even if it continues to snow! Most of the regulations also specify where you can put the snow you have shoveled. You aren’t allowed to simply pile it in the street, for instance. The details may vary slightly from place to place, but the bottom line is that if you don’t comply with the local snow removal requirements, and someone slips and falls in front of your house or apartment, you could be on the losing end of a law suit.
Not even illness or being away on vacation gets Germans or expats off the hook for snow duty. The regulations usually require you to get someone else to take care of your snow and ice responsibilities if you can’t do it yourself, for whatever reason.
Landlord or Renter?
Renters may be subject to the same requirements as homeowners if the rental contract stipulates that the renter is responsible for snow removal. However, that requirement must be very specific, with the conditions clearly spelled out in the contract. Even if the landlord has posted a notice about snow removal, tenants are not legally responsible unless the rental contract or Hausordnung states the specifics concerning that requirement. Otherwise the landlord is responsible for snow removal. Even if tenants are required to do snow removal, the landlord must make sure that tenants have done so.
Common Requirements for Ice and Snow
Removal in Germany
- The homeowner or tenant is responsible for clearing snow from walkways in front of the property.
- If the homeowner or tenant is not at home or otherwise unable to clear snow, he/she must get someone to do it.
- Most localities require that walkways be kept free of snow between the hours of 7 a.m and 8 p.m., meaning that if it continues to snow you may need to shovel more than once that day.
- Renters should check their Mietvertrag (rental contract) to see if the landlord requires them to remove snow – otherwise that is the landlord’s obligation.
- Walkways do not have to be entirely free of snow, but must be made non-slippery and safe to walk on by shoveling and sanding.
- The recommended substances for sanding icy walkways are: Sägespäne (sawdust), Splitt (decomposed granite), Sand (sand) or Kies (fine gravel). The maximum grain size is often specified (about 5 mm).
- Most localities ban the use of salt, ash, or other environmentally problematic defrosting chemicals for sanding.
- Overhanging icicles (Eiszapfen) or snow must be removed from the edge of a roof if it is above a walkway.
- Any injury caused by your failure to remove snow and ice could leave you liable for damages (Schadensersatz und Schmerzensgeld) and/or a fine (Bußgeld).
- Make sure your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy (Haus-Haftpflichtversicherung) covers any possible winter liabilities.
- Some communities impose a fine of 500 euros or more on anyone who fails to follow the regulations for snow and ice removal.
|Notice: These tips on ice and snow removal are for general information – and are not intended as legal advice. For any legal aspects concerning snow and ice removal, you should consult a legal professional familiar with the applicable laws. We recommend: The Legal Guide to Germany (LG2G) and this article: Obligation to Strew Sand.|
NEXT > Snow Tire Laws
BACK > Expat Checklist 2
MORE > Expats in A, D, CH
- Snow Tire Laws in Germany - What you need to know
- Expats in Germany, Austria, Switzerland
- The German Way Expat Blog
- Expat Checklist 1 - Before you go
- Expat Checklist 2 - After you’re there
- Getting a German Visa - Legal aspects and requirements
- Getting a German Residence Permit (for US citizens)
NOTE: We are not responsible for the content of external websites that we link to.
On the Web
- Obligation to Strew Sand from LG2G - "Sidewalks inside of town must be kept clean and safe only if they are frequently used. In other words..."
- Sample Regulations (in German) for the town of Markkleeberg in Saxony
- Streupflicht (in German) - An article about the topic of sanding and snow removal
- Schneeräumen vor der Haustür: Wer ist zuständig? (in German) - Another article on the topic of sanding and snow removal (from HR Online)
- Der Winterdienst - Schneeräumen und Streuen bei Glätte (PDF in German) - from the Bavarian interior ministry