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Removing snow and icicles

Winter is just around the corner. Who doesn't rejoice when the house and garden are covered in snow and the world like a layer of fine sugar? A thick layer of snow lies on the trees, the garden pond is covered in ice, the house is covered in a white fur, thick icicles hang from the gutter: a white Christmas.

As idyllic as this sounds, it also brings with it the danger of roof avalanches and falling icicles. The snow can slide off and endanger passers-by or damage a car parked at the side of the road.

Meltwater can also damage the fabric of buildings. Unlike rain, water usually does not run off the roof properly, but settles in the foundation or façade. Homeowners are advised not to ignore snow and ice for too long.

Long icicles on a gutter

What is the legal situation?

The general duty to protect traffic makes the person who creates or maintains a source of danger responsible. Avoidable hazards to traffic must be removed, and unavoidable hazards must be marked with a warning sign or cordoned off. In this case, this means that homeowners and landlords may be liable for ignoring the danger posed by a roof avalanche or falling ice. The road and pavement directly adjacent to the building must be safe to use for both motorists and pedestrians.

House possessor or homeowner?

If you live in a house for rent, you are the house possessor, but not the owner. In principle, the house owner can assign part of the road safety obligation, for example to the property management or tenant, so that you have to comply with the gritting obligation or to protect the pavement from roof avalanches.

If you live in a house that you own, you are the house owner. It is your responsibility to take care of the duty to maintain road safety and, if necessary, to commission third parties to do so.

The same applies, of course, to houses that are your property but that you do not occupy yourself. You are liable for damage caused by a breach of the duty to maintain road safety. So make sure that tenants and property management are informed.

What exactly do you have to do?

It depends a lot on the federal state and the region where you live. In regions where snow and sub-zero temperatures are common, you may be obliged, especially as a landlord or house owner, to take appropriate precautions to prevent damage to third parties. Possible falling icicles must be removed, and roof avalanches must be prevented. If necessary, the owner must take care of barriers or warning signs at an appropriate distance.

Icicles

When sub-zero temperatures alternate with thaw, icicles can quickly form, for example on the gutter. Although the ice looks picturesque, it can endanger people and animals and damage cars when it falls. On the other hand, icicles can be easily knocked off with a broom or snow shovel to prevent damage. If you want to be particularly thorough or if you have a high roof, climb up the ladder and loosen the icicles from the gutter by hand. If the ground is frozen, the ladder can easily slip away, so make sure you have a secure footing. Usually a lean-to ladder is sufficient for this. However, if you prefer to keep your distance from the frozen gutter, we recommend a multi-purpose ladder that can stand without making direct contact with the ground.

It is essential to ensure that the area below you is clear. That way, the fallen icicles will not cause you or anyone else a headache - or a head injury.

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Snow on the roof can become a roof avalanche

There are several ways to deal with the danger of snow sliding off the roof:

First of all, it is advisable to install a snow guard at the edge of the roof and above skylights. A snow guard acts like a fence as a barrier and prevents a roof avalanche from breaking loose and injuring a passer-by or causing damage to a parked vehicle. Snow guards are best installed by a professional.

If you have a particularly large roof, you can also install snow guard stoppers. These are hooks that are distributed over the entire surface of the roof and attached to the tiles. Unlike the snow guard, they prevent the snow on the roof from becoming a roof avalanche in the first place by stopping it in several places. This way, when the thaw sets in, the whole mass does not slide off the building, but can melt on the roof gradually.

Wooden house with lots of snow on the roof

Roof avalanche danger in everyday life

Of course, no one is expecting you to put the ladder on the roof every day and check it for roof avalanches. The duty of care speaks of reasonable measures to ensure the protection of third parties. However, after heavy snowfall or the onset of thaw, you should definitely check whether something might slide down. Last but not least, it may be worthwhile to have a warning sign to alert passers-by and vehicles to the danger.

This way, even the worst snowstorm will not upset you. You can enjoy the picturesque snowy landscape in your garden from the cosy warmth of your home - all without worrying.

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