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Agency risks premises liability claims for crumbling buildings

Owners of private property in Pennsylvania are generally responsible for the maintenance and safety of their buildings. However, in Philadelphia, over a hundred buildings stand vacant and crumbling. These buildings are owned by the local housing authority and have been cited on numerous occasions over recent years for serious violations, leaving the agency open to premises liability complaints.

In addition to the 99 buildings that are deemed unsafe, six more have been labeled "imminently dangerous" by inspectors. All of the buildings are owned by the housing authority, and a spokesman for the agency claims that they are working on a plan to correct the situation. Money is the main issue since demolition of a single property can cost $17,000 or more. Nevertheless, many of the properties are located near occupied dwellings where elderly people or children live.

One structure was damaged in a fire five years ago and was never repaired. Some of the properties have damaged roofs or leaning walls in danger of collapse. Others have repeatedly been cited for being unsealed, meaning open doors or windows allow people to enter the dangerous structure. One man who lives next to one of the abandoned buildings frequently boards windows or doors or attaches braces to bulging walls to prevent the structure from crumbling.

Neighbors should not have to risk their own safety to maintain someone else's property. Additionally, children playing near some of these structures may be injured in debris or rubble, or by falling objects if a building begins to fall. Those in Pennsylvania who are hurt because someone does not properly maintain his or her property may be entitled to compensation with the help of an attorney who is experienced in premises liability claims.

Source: nbcphiladelphia.com, "NBC10 Investigators Expose Crumbling, Leaning PHA Buildings", Mitch Blacher, Aug. 26, 2016

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