What are the rules for snow removal on Washington State properties?

It's that time of year again—the time when the snow starts to fall and people have to start shoveling their driveways and sidewalks.

Weston Loving
Weston Loving
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What options do I have as a property owner for snow removal?

But what do you do with all that extra snow once you've cleared a path to your front door? Is it legal to shovel snow into the street if you live in Washington State?

Well, the answer is tricky - because it depends on the area you live in. For example, according to the Seattle Municipal Code, it is illegal to shovel, plow, or otherwise deposit snow or ice onto a public sidewalk, street, or right-of-way.

City of Seattle Municipal Code 15.48.010 – Snow and ice removal.

It is the responsibility of the owner or occupant of private property to remove snow and ice on the sidewalks abutting his or her property in a timely manner and, if practical, prevent its becoming or remaining in an icy, ridged, uneven or humped condition or in a condition which is potentially hazardous to users of the public sidewalks. Property owners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalks adjacent to their property. They must make sure snow and ice does not pose a hazard to pedestrians. They must also repair cracks and other damage. Property owners are responsible for any unopened street areas next to their property. Property owners also maintain unpaved or unopened alleys, and alleys not paved to City standards.

So, if you live in Seattle and have been wondering if it's legal to shovel your snow into the street, the answer is no. Fines for violators can range from $100 to $500.

In the Tri-Cities, snow also needs to go in the yard

The City of Kennewick, for instance, points out that snow removed must go to your yard, not the street: ideally to the right of your driveway. The City of Richland requires similar under RMC Title 12.16.020. And - you guessed it - Pasco is the same when it comes to shoveling snow to the yard. Almost every Washington city and town has similar regulations.

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Why is this law in place?

When snow and ice are deposited in the street, it can create a hazard for drivers and pedestrians alike. In addition, once the snow melts, any dirt and debris that was shoveled along with it can clog storm drains and cause flooding.

Also, when plows come through to clear the streets, any snow that has been shoveled into the street can end up being pushed back onto sidewalks—creating an inconvenience for pedestrians.

ablokhin
ablokhin
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What do I do with the snow then?

If you're wondering what to do with all that snow, there are a few options.

One is to simply let it melt on your property; as long as it doesn't create a slip-and-fall hazard, you shouldn't have any problems.

Another option is to create what's known as a "snow dump." A snow dump is an area on your property where you can shovel the snow and let it melt. As long as the snow dump is at least five feet away from your property line, you should be in compliance with the law.

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In short, it is likely illegal to shovel your snow into the street in Washington State, but every city and county has differing laws. Play it safe and avoid shoveling into the street - it's just safer for everyone.

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