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City: Homeowners responsible for sidewalks’ dangerous conditions

Slips, trips and falls may seem like minor issues for some New Jersey residents, but the condition of a sidewalk can conceivably lead to serious injuries for those who live nearby. Even if you have never seen anyone injure him- herself on your walkway, your sidewalk could be terribly unsafe. Victims of slip and fall accidents do not care whether a home or business owner thinks the sidewalk is safe — the injuries likely prove otherwise. The good news is that municipalities throughout the state are taking measures to protect pedestrians from unsafe walking conditions. The bad news is that not everyone is on-board with these new measures.

Several homeowners in Highland Park, for example, are complaining to local media outlets because the city is requiring them to fix safety concerns related to sidewalks on their properties. Code enforcement officials are playing a key role in the massive overhaul of sidewalks throughout the area; their distinctive white X marks are used to identify deficiencies on private property. One resident, in particular, is fuming because of the citation. He says that the 60-day repair window is simply too short. That property owner has used one of the oldest excuses in the book: “No one has been hurt here yet, so why should it matter?”

Unlike angry residents, the city understands that safety does matter, regardless of the circumstance. Even though someone may not have taken a spill because of existing hazardous conditions, those sidewalk repairs are still critical for protecting public health and safety. Just like those municipalities do not excuse icy sidewalks in the winter, they will not excuse unsafe sidewalks during the rest of the year.

Every New Jersey resident deserves to feel safe while walking on city sidewalks. That may seem inconvenient to property owners — but we guarantee that a lawsuit would be far more inconvenient for those who fail to make repairs! Negligent property owners need to be held accountable for their irresponsible actions. Code enforcement is the first step, but civil litigation could follow if dangerous conditions persist.

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