Dubuque shifts sidewalk liability to homeowners

 

The Associated Press

Dubuque officials are making homeowners liable for most cases in which people are injured on sidewalks.

The Dubuque City Council approved an amendment to a city ordinance, allowing officials to delegate financial responsibility for sidewalk repairs to property owners. The city can fix sidewalks and then assess the cost to the homeowner where the sidewalk is located, the Telegraph Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1r8NhFI ).

Property owners also are liable for damages for not maintaining sidewalks in a safe condition "free from defects," according to the amended ordinance. The city could still be sued if it was aware of a bad sidewalk before an injury took place.

The move is aimed at encouraging homeowners to keep sidewalks in better condition.

"I do think it will make people a little bit more cautious and a little bit more aware of the condition of their sidewalks," city attorney Barry Lindahl said. "Homeowners are in the best position to know what condition their sidewalks are in, rather than having to rely on the city."

Lindahl said the city tried to pass a similar measure more than a decade ago, but it was struck down in district court.

The ordinance amendment comes after the Iowa Supreme Court recently upheld an Iowa City rule that extended financial liability to property owners.

Dave Ludovissy, agency principal and majority owner of Ludovissy & Associates in Dubuque, said homeowners should be mindful of the change.

"I think, in an average homeowners' policy, a sidewalk claim would normally be picked up," he said. "Still, I think homeowners should check and make sure that their policy covers sidewalks."

Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com

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