Is the sidewalk in front of your property a little worse for wear? All the freezing and thawing of Missouri weather along with additional help from ice melt, tree roots and good old time have a way of doing that. Unfortunately, if its time for replacement you might have to eat the bill. Or maybe not.
Legally, its the property owners responsibility to maintain their sidewalks. They are the one who can get sued if someone cracks their head on a broken sidewalk so that stands to reason. If your sidewalks are buckling and shifting, it might be a good idea to protect yourself and go ahead with replacing them in the spring. But before you break out the checkbook, make sure to sift through your options.
In the City of St. Louis, there is a program in which the City will split the costs of sidewalk repair in half with the owner. The 50/50 Sidewalk Program applies to single family homes as well as multi-family properties as large as a 4-family. There are, however, a couple of catches: the property has to be owner-occupied and there is a waiting list. The wait averages between 1 year and 18 months. If you don’t live in the property or can’t wait you’re out of luck on this one.
Still, there may still be hope. More than that actually as another option could even be cheaper. If any city-owned tree between the curb and sidewalk is the direct cause of damage to the sidewalk in question, the city will actually foot the entire repair bill for the affected area. Even if the property is a non-owner-occupant investment property. They won’t pay for any part of the sidewalk damaged by other means, but they will cover the tree-affected area. Since a large percentage of damaged sidewalks can be traced back to old-growth trees, there is a good chance that this might be the route for you.
For more on how to take advantage of these programs take a look at the City’s Sidewalk Repair site. If you’re a landlord in the mood for having someone else pay your repair bills, you might also want to check out my previous article on lead remediation and window replacement.