Only Gutter Heating will Prevent Icicles

Real Estate owners must take precautions. Not only they, but also car drivers and pedestrians have the duties in this weather. Right now everybody is on alert when streets and sidewalks are slippery. However, what happens when the snow starts melting and avalanches slide from roof tops. Who is responsible for that? LG2G investigated this for you.


I guess you, owning your own house / condominium might be saying something like "Goodie! What's that gotta do with me?" Such can easily become your issue when health insurances want to collect disbursed treatment costs. The fire department might want to collect their service fees after the police have decided that your house is a danger to the public.
However, courts usually decide against injured persons: Generally, everybody is to protect himself against avalanches or icicles. When a house owner installed a grid* to keep back the snow, he usually cannot be held liable anymore. Only in extreme weather conditions and when the danger is evident to a blind man the owner must become active. So, car drivers and pedestrians be aware! When on a sunny winter day an icicle falls so in love with the car beneath it, it lets its grip go and pierces the car, the car owner cannot collect any damages from the house owner. It is the car owner's duty to pay attention to his surroundings when he parks the jalopy. When he wants to prevent a car piercing, he better look before parking. This remains true even when the landlord did not hang up any warning signs.

The only chance to be reimbursed for this penetration when the landlord can be held responsible. This will be the case when he has a responsibility to protect others. Such duty typically exists when roofs have not been secured in accordance with a statutory provision. You will find such regulations in state or federal construction law. §32 VIII BauO-Bln determine that when roofs end directly over sidewalks or areas for the public they must have grids installed. When this is not the case, the owner of a building can be held liable. When an injury occurs in disobeying this statutory rule the owner will have to open his wallet. Even when there is no statutory order to install a grid, the OLG Jena ruled that you as the owning person may still be held liable. This depends on the local conditions and only in extreme cases. Remember, when a blind man can forsee the danger, than you will be held liable. What to do? Monitor the weather, roof, hang up warning signs. A private health insurance company went even so far as to cordon off the sidewalk alongside its building.

In cases of immediate danger, ice and snow must be removed - when it has to be, with the help of professionals. In very extreme cases, you can call your local fire department. Their bill might not be cheap but it will surely be less than paying for a person killed by an avalanche of snow and ice from your roof. Usually, home owners and property managers entrust companies offering winter services to clean the snow. However, checking the roof is usually not part of the deal.

To take off icicles, a lifting platform is needed and this will be expensive. Therefore, many are reluctant to invest in these costs. So what happens in the worst of case? When a house owner evidently throws caution in the wind his house insurance will not cover the damages (AG Munich, judgment March 7, 2008 re 222 C 25801/05).

What measurements must be taken, when you get injured? First thing is to take pictures of the house, sidewalk and other relevant details of the surrounding in order to be able to show how your injury could happen and not how pretty the house is. You, as the injured, have to prove your damages and the responsibility of the landlord. Get the name and address of witnesses. Have a physician document your injuries - best on the very same day! Make the physician note the time you visited him.

Alas, industry does not sleep. An innovative technical solution exists to get rid of the problem with icicles: a heater for your gutter. Any snow and ice will be transported down the drain.

Practical Hin for Landlords / House owners:

The fees for the fire department are € 350 / hr in general and € 600 for the snorkel truck. It might be cheaper to prevent their services when you do it yourself or have your janitor do it. When pesdestrians or tenants report this danger to the fire department they will come around to maintain public safety and when have done their work you cannot successfully lament that you were about to take care of it or that you did not hire them. Keep in mind, the firemen will then act with public authority.

* = officially called "Schneefanggitter" but normally only "Schneegitter" or just "Gitter"


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