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Courts rule that homeowners' associations liable for sidewalks

Does a homeowner's association have to be held liable for sidewalk injuries? Who is meant to repair the sidewalks if they're damaged? Can you make a claim against your association if they've left ice on the sidewalks and you've hurt yourself?

If you've just moved into a homeowners' association community, then you may have some questions about liability and how you'll be affected if you're hurt on a curb or sidewalk build by the association. An August 12 news report describes the fact that the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that homeowners' associations can be held accountable for any injuries that are suffered as a result of poorly maintained sidewalks.

This was an important ruling, because it used to be difficult to decide who was at fault for sidewalk injuries. Would it be the person walking on the sidewalk or the person who owns the sidewalk? Now, it's been determined that it should always be the person who owns it, not who uses it. The only difference would be if the sidewalk was public, since homeowners' associations are only liable for privately owned sidewalks.

The case that led to this ruling was filed by a woman who was injured in 2008 while walking in her development. She had been walking to the grocery store when she slipped on ice that hadn't been cleared. The homeowners' association had retained a company to maintain the development, including for the removal of ice. The ice was not thick enough for the company to come out, because the homeowners' association would not call them out and pay a fee to clear the slippery areas.

Source: New Jersey Law Journal, "Justices: Homeowners' Association Has Sidewalk Liability," Michael Booth, Aug. 12, 2015

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