Snow Removal in Winter

With the first snow of the season having fallen, it is important to know what your obligations are for clearing snow from roads, sidewalks, etc. While municipalities are responsible for removing snow from the streets, the homeowners and landlords in Switzerland are generally responsible for removing snow and ice from walkways on their property or in front of their home. Landlords often pass this responsibility to their tenants, unless you live in a large apartment building, in which case the “Hausmeister” (superintendent) or building manager assumes this responsibility.

If you are renting a home, it should be clearly stipulated in your contract if snow removal is your duty. If so, check with your Gemeinde (municipality) about the specific snow-shoveling requirements, which will specify a minimum width of cleared area (normally 1 meter), the time by which the area must be cleared, and where the snow can be placed. Failure to comply can result in a fine and/or potential liability if someone gets injured as a direct result (eg, slipping on ice). If you are on vacation or ill, you must find someone to cover your duties, no excuses are accepted!

If there is ice or slippery, packed snow on the sidewalks, you should spread grit or sand and only use salt if really necessary to protect the environment, and especially nearby trees. In Basel-Stadt, you can get grit from large boxes placed by the city in most neighborhoods; you can find a map of the locations of those boxes at

Also note that it is illegal for you to drive your car in Switzerland unless you have removed ALL snow from your windshield. If the snow is only partially cleared, you can get fined. Furthermore, it is illegal to let your car idle for the purpose of melting the snow off your windshield, so it is best to invest in a snow broom/scraper and some gloves!