Property owners have the duty to take measures to prevent injuries to their guests or customers. Failure to take precautions against a porch, deck or balcony collapse can lead to a premises liability lawsuit.
Overcrowding and exceeding safety maximums can lead to tragic accidents. Building, condominium and homeowners must know and enforce maximum capacities for decks and balconies to avoid these accidents. Maximum capacity should also be clearly posted.
Property owners need to inspect decks that are over 15 years old. They should repair or replace missing or rusting nails or fasteners; severe cracks; rotted wood, especially at building connections; inadequate footings and ledger boards without lag bolts, through bolted or where only the nails are visible. Horizontal movement may also need cross-bracing to stop sway.
Owners should also assess the weight of heavy items such as furniture, appliances, wading pools or air conditioning compressors. These may need to be removed.
Gas and charcoal grills may not be used or lit on a balcony, under an overhanging portion or within 10 feet of a structure except for single and two-family homes.
Structures over 15 years old
Decks over 15 years old should undergo professional evaluation, repair and reinforcement. Older decks may have been constructed before codes were enacted, requiring them to support minimum load pounds per square foot or have ledger boards with direct structural connections.
Qualified inspections should also evaluate decks that are over 15 years old. Property owners need to obtain professional assistance if they have any doubts about the integrity of a porch, deck or balcony.
A fall from a balcony, porch or deck can cause serious injuries or may even be fatal. Attorneys can help seek compensation against property owners who do not take reasonable measures to keep these structures safe.