Once the snow stops falling, the clock starts ticking.
In Maryland, it’s not illegal to drive with snow on the roof of your car. Nor is it illegal to move your neighbor’s lawn chair out of their freshly shoveled parking spot. (Both moves, however, are unwise.)
But in Baltimore and surrounding counties you have only a limited amount of time to shovel your sidewalk before you may be fined.
After any snowfall that leaves accumulation, property owners or residents must clear at least a 2-foot-wide path on their sidewalks, being careful not to block the flow of water into gutters.
And you have to move fast: within three hours after the snow has stopped falling, or by 11 a.m. if the snow stops between 3 p.m. and 6 a.m. Homeowners who violate the law are fined $50, while commercial property owners are fined $100.
The codes have been inconsistently enforced. In 2013, only one person was cited for violating the law. In 2012, none were. But in 2011, a whopping 541 citations were issued, thanks to the city's being particularly "proactive in the commercial districts" that year, according to a Baltimore Housing spokeswoman. In 2016, members of the Baltimore City Council criticized the Rawlings-Blake administration's plan to give citations to businesses and some homeowners who had not shoveled their sidewalks during the record storm.
Baltimore Countians have 24 hours to clear their sidewalks of ice and snow. Violators receive a $25 fine, plus an additional $25 for every day the obstruction continues.
As in Baltimore City, county residents should avoid blocking gutters and should additionally take care not to dump snow into the paved portion of the street.
If the homeowner fails to remove the snow, the county may do so and bill the resident. A lien is placed on someone’s home if the bill isn’t paid.
Howard Countians get a whole 48 hours to clear their walkways after a snowfall. In the event of a multiunit building with more than one renter, it’s typically the landlord’s job to remove the snow — unless the lease states otherwise. Violators can get a fine of $25 to $50.
On its website, Howard County reminds residents that some people aren’t physically able to shovel snow from their walkways and are hesitant to ask for help — so it would be nice if you helped out your elderly or disabled neighbors instead of reporting them to the police. “Your thoughtfulness can make a big difference to someone who might otherwise be unable to cope,” the county says.
In Harford County, no ordinance requires residents to clear sidewalks, officials said, but there are such laws in towns, including Bel Air, which requires residents to clear sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall.
Anne Arundel County
In Anne Arundel County, residents have six hours to clear their sidewalks, unless the snow falls overnight, in which case they have until 11 a.m. the following day.
Residents must clear sidewalks within 12 hours of a snowfall, unless the snow falls overnight, in which case they have until 6 p.m. the following day.
The law carries a $100 fine for noncompliance.
Lawn chair diplomacy
“Any discussion of snow in Baltimore would be incomplete without mentioning chairs,” retired librarian Ted Kruse wrote in The Baltimore Sun in 2017.
Kruse explained a somewhat peculiar habit among city folk, of leaving a lawn chair in a parking spot they have cleared to claim it as their own when their car is moved.
“The Baltimore ethic is folks who clear a spot can claim the spot,” he wrote. “Folks who do nothing to clear the spot cannot claim a spot.”
Legally, of course, the lawn chair is meaningless. On-street parking spaces belong to everybody. But do you want to be the person to tell that to your neighbor?