At the end of last week, the Czech Republic was under ice. There were many car accidents, some of them fatal, but pedestrians walking on badly kept pavements in cities and towns were also hard hit. Many of them suffered arm and leg fractures or twisted ankles. Who is to blame remains unclear.
Anybody who slips on non-gritted pavement and suffers an injury can sue the owner of the adjacent building, and he will most likely win in the court - despite the fact that the pavement may not belong to that respective house owner.
MP Stanislav Krecek, who is a well-known defender of tenants' rights, told the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes on Saturday that the whole matter was rather confused. Until recently, the owners of apartment buildings had a duty to clean the pavement outside their houses. But because the majority of pavements are the property of the city or town, they complained about having to spend money on something that does not belong to them. That's why parliament changed the law in question recently, but did so just by half measures.
Although landlords don't have to look after the pavement outside their property, they are held responsible for keeping it clean and safe. So if a person slips on it and suffers an injury, it's the owner of the apartment building who is to blame. That's why keeping the pavement safe in winter seems to be the better option for the building owner, because then he will be able to defend himself in court.
But there is yet another snag - the owner must pay for the maintenance of the pavement from his or her own pocket - the building's tenants only pay for the cleaning of the inside of their apartment building.
The majority of landlords consider the present law unjust, and do not carry out the regulation. In larger towns the rule seems to be that only pavements outside state-owned apartment buildings are gritted because they are cared for by companies hired by the municipality. But even this rule does not apply everywhere. The spokesman of the Prague First Aid Service confirmed at the weekend that during those two days of icy surfaces, there were hundreds of people who broke bones when they slipped on the icy pavement.
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