If you live in New Jersey, ice and snow are a part of your life in the winter months. A fresh snow can be a beautiful sight, a winter wonderland, but it can also pose a significant risk. Far too many people suffer needless injury in New Jersey winters when property owners fail to take reasonable steps to remove snow and ice from sidewalks, steps, and parking lots.
Under New Jersey law, the owner of real property has a duty to monitor and maintain the premises in such way that it minimizes the risk of injury to anyone legally on the property. That duty can also extend to anyone who exercises control over the property, such as a property manager, landlord or tenant. It’s not an absolute duty—the exercise of care must only be reasonable.
When it comes to snow and ice on residential or commercial property in New Jersey, there are generally different standards based on the type of property. With a single family private residence, there’s typically no duty to remove snow or ice, or to warn about any risks associated with snow, ice or freezing rain. Why? Because most people don’t enter single family residential property for commercial purposes or to engage in activity that will provide a financial benefit to the homeowner. However, if the homeowner runs a business out of the home, or if the homeowner takes action that makes the condition worse (pouring hot water on icy steps, for example), there can be liability.
With commercial property, you must typically show that the property owner either knew or should have known of the potential risk of injury due to ice, snow or other winter weather conditions; and that the property owner failed to take reasonable steps to remedy the problem or warn potential visitors. There is an exception to this rule—if the nature of the business was such that the dangerous condition was reasonably foreseeable, there is no requirement that the property owner have actual notice of the risk.
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