Inspectors from the New York Department of Buildings are warning tenants to stay off of their balconies at the Manhattan apartment building where a 35-year-old woman fell to her death earlier this month. The woman, an advertising executive, was leaning on the railing of her 17th-floor balcony when it gave way and she fell, according to numerous news reports.
In the aftermath of the tragic accident, the building department is investigating in order to determine why the balcony railing collapsed.
While it is not clear exactly what transpired in this case, the tragedy is a reminder of the legal responsibility of building owners and landlords to keep their properties up to code and in good repair.
New York property owners and managers are required under premises liability law to keep their properties free from hazards and safe for tenants and visitors. This typically entails complying with safety regulations and responding appropriately to any complaints. Balconies and railings are areas that property owners should pay particularly close attention to, for obvious reasons.
It has not yet been reported whether investigators have turned up any deficiencies with balcony maintenance at the Upper East Side building that was the scene of this terrible fall. It has been reported that the firm that manages the pre-World War II building did turn in its most recent balcony-inspection report six months late.
Companies in New York City are typically required to file a report on exteriors and balconies every five years. In 2010, the New York Department of Buildings ordered reviews of balconies citywide after a 24-year-old died when his balcony railing gave way. As a result of that inspection, the department found that many balconies had not been properly inspected; some were so dangerous that people were ordered to stay off of them.
Source: New York Times, “A Place to Go Outside, but Not Look Down,” Cara Buckley and Mona El-Naggar, Aug. 2, 2013
Source: New York Daily News, “Building where ad exec plunged to her death six months late in filing balcony inspections: officials,” Tina Moore, Aug. 2, 2013