With snow on the way for the Vancouver area, it's almost time for everyone's least favourite winter chores: shovelling and de-icing driveways and sidewalks. As much as some people may not want to do it, well, they have to.
Although not always enforced, municipal governments in the City of Vancouver, Burnaby, and Surrey have snow removal bylaws that allow the City to fine you if the snow on your sidewalk isn't shoveled. In fact, some of the fines can cost residents several hundred dollars for non-compliance.
Here's what the snow removal bylaws of the more populous municipalities in Metro Vancouver say residential homeowners have to do, and how much they can fine you if you don't.
As outlined in Section 31 of the Burnaby Street and Traffic Bylaw 1961, owners and/or occupiers of single-family homes, two-family homes, multi-family homes, as well as industrial, commercial, and institutional properties are all responsible for removing any snow or ice from their sidewalks, as well as "multi-use paths" surrounding their property, by no later than 10:00 am each day, including holidays.
Residents are also asked to pile the shoveled snow away from the road, either on the "boulevard" (where the road meets the sidewalk) or on your property, and to leave a one-metre space between things like garbage and recycling bins, as well as cars and snowbanks.
If the City inspects your property -- usually triggered by a complaint -- single-family and two-family homeowners can be fined $100, multi-family occupants can be fined $250, and industrial, commercial, and institutional owners or occupants can be fined $400.
In Surrey, the snow removal section of the Surrey Highway and Traffic Bylaw similarly asks residents to clear their sidewalks of snow and ice by 10:00 am each day, but excludes holidays.
Surrey is also a bit nicer when it comes to infractions.
If a complaint is filed against you, whether you're a residential or business owner/occupant, the City will first issue you a notice and give you time to respond. If you fail to comply by the given deadline, then you will be fined each day until you do so. Homeowners can be fined $55 a day, while businesses can be fined $80 per day.
Whatever Surrey is, Vancouver is the opposite, as the City is not nearly as nice about infractions and the fines are much higher (with room to escalate).
As dictated by Section 76 of the Street and Traffic Bylaw No. 2849, residents are asked to shovel the snow on their sidewalks by 10:00 am each morning, like in Burnaby and Surrey, but the Vancouver snow removal bylaw also specifies that it has to be the "full width of the sidewalk" (no halfsies) and that storm drains must also be cleared.
In addition, if you fail to do so, the City has the power to have somebody do it for you and send you the bill. "The city may recover such expense by action in a court of competent jurisdiction," the bylaw states. Jeez.
Furthermore, fines begin at $250 for homeowners (which is still lower than in Toronto), in the form of a ticket. And in March 2021, City Council approved an amendment to the bylaw that allows the City to fine you "a minimum" of $750 if you fail to comply within a day of the initial offence. Those who fail to do so "may be subject to escalating tickets, fines, or both."
Adding salt to the wounds, the City currently has no plans to give out free salt for residents this year, like it did in 2017, perhaps learning from an experience that can reasonably be described as "mayhem."