There’s nothing like the feeling of buying a new house and becoming the owner of a property. To many people, having their own property is a dream come true.
Once you sign the deed, you have the absolute freedom to customize the whole place as you wish — except for one spot; the sidewalk in front of your house. So if you’re wondering whether you could remove the sidewalk in front of your property, the answer is usually no.
In most cases, the city or the municipality you live in owns all public sidewalks. That is why you’re not allowed to modify anything without legal permission.
As long as the local government has constructed that sidewalk and road verge, and it’s mentioned in your deed, you can’t remove it or block people from accessing it. If you do, you’re likely to get in trouble.
You’re allowed to remove or block your sidewalk in one case only. If a previous resident has constructed this sidewalk and it’s not mentioned in the deed, the sidewalk is yours, and you’re free to modify it as you please.
Before changing anything on the sidewalk or the road verge in front of your property, take a look at the deed of your property and the local laws of your city concerning the right of way.
The right of way is the public part of the street around your property, where people may access it at any time. This public part spreads 25 feet away from the center of the street, including the sidewalk and the road verge in front of your property.
Since the government owns the sidewalk in front of my house, it’s not my responsibility to maintain it, right? Well, not quite.
Even though you’re not allowed to remove the sidewalk or block people from passing, you’re still responsible for keeping it clean, intact, and safe for people to walk on.
You have multiple responsibilities towards the sidewalk in front of your property, including:
- Shovel snow regularly in the winter to prevent any serious accidents. If you leave the snow on the sidewalk too long, people may slip and injure themselves badly.
- Trim outgrown grass or weeds that grow by the corners of the sidewalk to keep it clean, neat, and free from bugs.
- Remove any obstacles from the way, including a fence or a tree branch sticking out of your yard, to eliminate any accidents.
- Repair minor chips or cracks on the sidewalk so people, especially children, wouldn’t trip on them while walking.
- Report serious repairs, like uneven concrete or deep cracks in the sidewalk, to your town or city so they can fix them as soon as possible.
To sum up your responsibilities, you must ensure that the sidewalk in front of your house is regularly maintained and safe for people to walk or run on without tripping and slipping.
It’s not the best idea to repair major damages, like deep cracks on the sidewalk or uneven blocks, by yourself. Usually, your city would assign a licensed inspector to repair any major damage to the sidewalk because they would finish all the repairs safely and efficiently.
However, if you have your mind set on fixing the sidewalk by yourself, you can’t start right away. You need to get the city inspector and the city engineer to sign off on the repairs before you start working on your repair project.
Otherwise, anything you’ll do will be considered as modifying the sidewalk and you may be charged with a fine.
If you must modify the sidewalk in front of your house, you could apply for an easement from your city. That way, you’ll have permission to modify the sidewalk in front of your property in a way that brings benefits to the property.
Otherwise, any changes to public property without any permit will have consequences. At a minimum, you’ll be required to reverse any changes that you’ve done and restore the sidewalk exactly the way it was.
In some cities, you’ll need to pay a fine along with the fees of restoring the sidewalk to its original state. So, to avoid problems and save your time and money, ask your city about the allowed modification you could apply to the sidewalk in front of your house.
As tempting as it may be to modify the sidewalk in front of your property, whether for your privacy or the general aesthetic, you can’t change what’s not yours. Unless stated otherwise in the deed of your property, the sidewalk is a part of your city or town, not your private property.
Therefore, you don’t have the freedom to remove, block, or change anything on the sidewalk. Any modifications to the sidewalk in front of your house without permission from your city are illegal and would lead to unwanted consequences — even if it’s for your privacy.
So make sure that you either apply for an easement from your city, or limit your renovations to your front yard and leave the sidewalk as it is to prevent any trouble.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and over 10 years of experience working in IT. As a homeowner, I love working on projects around the house, and as a father, I love investigating various ways to keep my family safe (whether or not this involves tech). I’ve also played guitar for almost 20 years and love writing music, although it’s hard to find the time these days.