Change in sidewalk ordinance puts liability on property owner - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Change in sidewalk ordinance puts liability on property owner

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A portion of sidewalk in Dubuque is marked for repairs A portion of sidewalk in Dubuque is marked for repairs
DUBUQUE (KWWL) - A recent Iowa Supreme Court decision could have you financially on the hook if someone gets hurt on the city sidewalk bordering your property.

Prior to this decision, cities -- and, therefore, taxpayers -- were the ones who had to shell out the cash if someone sued.

Now, if somebody trips and gets hurt on a sidewalk and wants to sue, it's the property owner getting hit with the lawsuit.

All a city has to do is amend its existing sidewalk ordinance, transferring liability from the city to the property owners.

Dubuque's city council recently made the change.

Up until now, Dubuque property owners were only financially responsible for maintaining the sidewalk. Now, they have extra incentive to do so.

Tom Kopp is the city of Dubuque's sidewalk inspector. On Friday afternoon, he pointed out cracks and problems in the sidewalk along West Third Street.

Dubuque property owners are financially responsible for maintaining the sidewalk, if it's cracked, uneven or covered in snow and ice. If the problem doesn't get fixed, the city makes the repairs and charges the homeowner.

"It just makes sense in a good neighbors way just to make sure people using the sidewalk have safe passage," Kopp said. "We try to ensure that when we can, but it can cost you."

He said replacing a sidewalk can cost between $6 and $7 per square foot, meaning a homeowner might spend several thousand dollars to replace a sidewalk in front of their house.

He said that cost, however, is still cheaper than paying attorneys' fees and someone's medical bills.

"Every year there's cases where somebody trips and falls and they want to, they want to recoup their losses for lost work or whatever," Kopp said, adding the city sees about a dozen of complaints per year.

Now, that lawsuit will land on property owners -- not the city of Dubuque.

More information on Dubuque's sidewalk ordinance is HERE: http://www.cityofdubuque.org/645/Sidewalk-Maintenance
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