Under Illinois natural accumulation rule, landowners have no common law duty to remove natural accumulations of ice, snow or water from their property. The natural accumulation rule applies without regard to any ongoing precipitation or the length of time the natural accumulation has existed.
Examples of natural accumulation are: a sidewalk that has not been shoveled, puddles of water inside buildings from melting snow, ice formed by snow being packed down by pedestrians. Unnatural accumulation would be any actions by the property owner that cause snow or ice to accumulate in a specific location.
The reason for the natural accumulation rule is that it would be unreasonable to require landowners to expend funds and perform the labor necessary to constantly keep their property free from ice and snow during the winter months.
Recognizing that some homeowners may want to clear snow and ice from the sidewalks around their property, the Illinois legislature passed the Snow and Ice Removal Act, 745 ILCS 75/0.01 et seq., which provides that “[a]ny owner, lessor, occupant or other person in charge of any residential property, or any agent of or other person engaged by any such party, who removes or attempts to remove snow and ice from sidewalks abutting the property shall not be liable for any personal injuries allegedly caused by the snowy or icy condition of the sidewalk resulting from his or her acts or omissions unless the alleged misconduct was willful or wanton.” Willful and wanton misconduct generally requires the homeowner to exhibit a reckless disregard for the safety of others.
Please note that the Snow and Ice Removal Act applies to residential property owners only. Business owners may be liable for injuries caused by their negligent attempt to remove snow or ice.
While Illinois imposes no duty on landowners to remove snow and ice from their own property, some municipalities require landowners to remove snow and ice from the sidewalks abutting their property. For example, in Chicago, the city enacted section 10-8-180 of the Chicago Municipal Code, which states that, in general, “every owner, lessee, tenant, occupant or other person having charge of any building or lot of ground in the city abutting upon any public way or public place shall remove the snow and ice from the sidewalk in front of such building or lot of ground.” Therefore, Chicagoans are generally charged with the responsibility to shovel and remove ice or snow from the section of sidewalk in front of their home or business.
But like the Snow and Ice Removal Act, Section 10-8-190 of the Chicago Municipal Code provides that “any person, who removes snow or ice from the public sidewalk or street, shall not, as a result of his acts or omissions in such removal, be liable for civil damages.” In other words, the Chicago ordinance suggests that a business or property owner may be considered negligent for failing to shovel, salt or remove ice from the sidewalk, but not for removing snow/ice in a careless manner.