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Obligations of the real property owner



It is commonly believed in our country, that areas outside our property are not our problem and we definitely have no obligation to clean sidewalks in front of our houses. Well, we couldn’t be more wrong!


It is true that the provisions of polish law entrust the duty to oversee sidewalks to the local commune (gmina), but private owners and property administrators should also take care of the areas in the immediate vicinity of their plot. The very same duties have also co-owners, holders of the perpetual usufruct rights, organizations and persons who sit in the housing community board, as well as all other entities disposing of the real property.


If there are multi-family buildings developed on the plot, and each housing unit has a separate ownership established, the duties of the property owner belong to persons in charge of shared areas, or to all housing units’ owners. If there is no housing community board, execution of the duties is on the janitor of the building.


Owner or the administrator of a building under construction is obliged to ensure a safe usage of the building under the influence of external forces, human activity, and natural forces such as:


• lightings,

• earthquake,

• strong winds,

• high-intensity rainfalls,

• landslides,

• ice on rivers, seas, and lakes and other water bodies,

• fires or floods.


The aforementioned natural forces may damage the work, or cause the direct threat of such damage, pose risk to life and health of people, condition of the property, or to the environment.


During wintertime, no property owner should forget about clearing the neighbouring area of snow, removing icicles and ice overhangs, which may threaten life and health of the inhabitants and pedestrians. Neglecting these duties may be quite expensive – in the case of an accident, which happened on the area not cleared of snow, the injured person may demand compensation.


In accordance with the art. 5 of the Act on the Maintenance of the Commune in a Clear and Orderly Condition, owners of properties have to ensure this maintenance in a clear and orderly condition – meaning removing mud, snow, ice and other impurities – of sidewalks located along their property. Such a sidewalk should be understood as a separated part of the  public road for the pedestrian traffic, located in the immediate vicinity of the property.


There are two situations which release the owner form his maintenance obligations: when there is a paid standstill or parking space on the sidewalk (then the obligations are on the commune which charges for parking), or when there is a bus or tram stop in front of the house (in this case, the maintenance of the neighbouring area is under the responsibility of the transport establishment).


All the owners and administrators of real properties should perform their duties diligently, as consequences of neglect may be distressing and expensive. Art. 117 sec. 1 of the Code of Petty Offences says that if persons responsible for the maintenance of property areas in a clear and orderly condition do not perform their obligation, or do not adhere to rules and instructions issued by the competent body (...), they are liable for the payment of a fine up to 1,500 PLN, or for the punishment of reprimand. Fine may be imposed by the police or a city guard.


Jakub Jastrzębski


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