Balconies - safe?

Balconies - safe?

Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

Three young men injured in a recent balcony collapse at the University of North Texas seem to be recovering nicely. But officials in Denton, Texas, are asking questions about the private developer that built the student-housing complex.

Two of the injured men, Garrett Draper and Tony Garcia, have been treated and released from Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth. A third, Grant Draper, is in good condition. They fell from a third-story balcony when it collapsed at The Grove, a student-apartment complex that had opened two weeks earlier.

Campus Crest Communities, of Charlotte, North Carolina, has developed student housing under its Grove brand at about 30 campuses around the country. A project is planned for Auburn University here in Alabama, and CEO Ted Rollins has ties to our state through his involvement in a troubling divorce case that has been the subject of several Legal Schnauzer posts.

We have been asking questions about Ted Rollins and his business/legal practices for quite a while. Now, folks at the University of North Texas are raising similar questions.

The North Texas Dailyin an editorial, says The Grove in Denton was built in a tight time frame:

The Grove apartments were constructed over the summer and went up in about two months–an alarmingly fast turnaround. That should have been a red flag to the building inspector to spend enough time thoroughly checking the building.

The paper also raised questions about the whole notion of private companies building student housing at public universities:

In its 10-K form filed with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission, Campus Crest touted its vertically integrated platform to investors. According to the document, Campus Crest has ownership of the companies that perform every part of The Grove development process.

As Ted W. Rollins, CEO of Campus Crest, pointed out in an interview with Multi-Housing News (MHN) the company stands to benefit 100 percent from the value creation of The Grove entities.

In other words, they have a direct financial incentive to build quickly and cheaply.

A Houston personal-injury law firm, Denena & Points, already has taken note of the North Texas case. A post on the firm’s blog points to negligence in the balcony collapse:

Pictures of The Grove apartments in Denton, TX show a (very) few holes where the balcony was anchored into the wall in some way. It appears that the balcony had no supportive ledger board. Or if there was one, it does not appear that it was attached in any way to the apartment wall. It is clear from the number and positioning of the holes that the balcony could not have supported much weight.

News reports of the Denton balcony collapse quote a spokesperson who emphasizes that the balconies and their railings were purely “decorative” structures attached to the building merely for aesthetic reasons. The spokesperson specifically states that the balconies were not designed to bear weight. It sounds like The Grove apartments in Denton, TX and their owner, Campus Crest, try to use this as a “defense” against the balcony collapse. But as a defense, it just doesn’t seem to hold up (much like the balcony).

Could Campus Crest be facing legal fallout from the balcony collapse?

It’s just plain negligent to deliberately attach non-weight bearing balconies to an apartment (especially on the 3rd floor, directly above a hard concrete surface) and then create fully functional doors that residents can use to go out upon that balcony. The Grove apartments’ spokesperson says the balcony was never intended to bear the weight of the adults who were on it that night it collapsed. Yet the complex had constructed doors that open right out onto those balconies and that seem to invite you to step out upon these non-weight bearing balconies. Did the complex tell the students that it was dangerous to use their balconies and that these balconies weren’t designed to bear weight–that they must only look, and not touch them? (Probably not.)

We have been scrutinizing Ted Rollins and his legal/business practices for some time. Looks like others are going to join that effort.

RogerShuler

RogerShuler

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