Is the Builder Responsible When a Homeowners’ Association Doesn’t Treat Ice?

April 11, 2017
Aaron S. Marines

It may be strange to think about slipping on ice now that the weather is finally warming up.  But a recent court ruling decided the question of who is responsible when a resident slips on an icy spot on a community walkway.  Is it the Builder who installed the walkway, or the Association who failed to treat the ice?

In Davis v. NVR, Inc. a homeowner attempted to sue the developer, builder, snow removal contractor and architect for a slip and fall injury. Davis was walking on the homeowners’ association walking path when she slipped on ice and injured herself.  The ice was present at a low spot in the walkway where the walkway crossed through a wetlands area in the homeowners’ association property. Apparently, many owners pointed out to the homeowners’ association that water puddled up at this spot on the walkway. It sounds like this icy spot was a pretty regular occurrence.

Davis brought suit against the builder of the walkway and the company responsible for snow removal from the walkway. She claimed that since the Builder installed the walkway with the spot that accumulated water all the time, that the Builder was responsible for any dangerous conditions that arose out of the walkway.  I note that there is no indication about why she did not sue the Association – that is probably a good story.

The Court determined that the builder, architect and snow removal contractor were not liable for the unit owner’s injuries. The Court said that the builder is not held liable for a condition it caused after the homeowners’ association accepts the work unless: (1) the builder knew that his work made it dangerous, and (2) that the danger was unlikely to be discovered by the homeowners’ association. Here, the homeowners’ association was well aware of the dangerous condition.  Because of that, the builder was not liable for the damages.

This should point out the importance of documenting the condition of the property at turnover.  Many property managers that I work with strongly recommend turnover studies to protect builders and associations.  Even though the sun is out now, snow and ice, and slips and falls, are always right around the corner.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Commercial and Residential Real EstateLand Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.