You may have seen the news of yet another North Texas balcony collapse. This Denton balcony collapse badly injured 3 young men when the 3rd floor balcony where they had stepped out to enjoy a smoke suddenly tore from the wall and sent them to a hard landing on the concrete 3 floors below. The men were airlifted to a hospital in Fort Worth for intensive care. Witnesses say that other students had been out upon the balcony before them, so the men had no reason to suspect that the structure couldn’t support their weight. The Grove apartments complex, where the balcony collapse occurred, had just opened its doors for the first time a few weeks previously.

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).

Where there is a balcony on your unit, no matter how narrow, and doors that open freely onto that balcony, you will naturally tend to make use of that balcony. Even if you just use that balcony to “get some fresh air” as The Grove apartments’ spokesperson suggests, it would be perfectly natural for you to actually step out onto that balcony and lean on its rail as you enjoy the fresh air. You might also place some heavy potted plants out on that balcony. And you might let your pets out there to get some air. Children might go out on the balcony to play. You or your friends might even step outside to smoke occasionally.

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.)

News reports and witness statements indicate that The Grove apartments in Denton, TX might have been hastily constructed with the intention of opening in time to lure student renters before the start of the Fall semester. The intention behind the double doors that open out onto (non-weight bearing!) 3rd floor balconies is puzzling. Placing non-weight bearing balconies on high floors, above concrete, in complexes where students are encouraged to gather in great numbers, seems to be just asking for a nasty balcony collapse and fall.

That’s just plain hazardous. Perhaps you’ve heard the term “epic fail.” If the complex didn’t want to spend the money to make sturdy and safe weight-bearing balconies, then they definitely should not have constructed fully functional doors leading out onto the unsafe, non-weight bearing balconies.

Personally, I hope that the students, their parents and their lawyers hold The Grove apartments and Campus Crest fully accountable for their negligence in creating this Denton balcony collapse hazard. This hazard has already seriously injured 3 people in a balcony collapse mere weeks after The Grove apartments in Denton, TX opened their doors. The complex is very lucky that no one lost his life in that 3-story drop to the concrete, where the metal rail fell on top of at least one man.

The injuries suffered by the three men in the balcony collapse were horrible. News accounts don’t fill you in on the details. All three men seem they will survive their injuries, but their suffering from the accident may be life-long. We wish the best for them. It may provide them little solace that their injuries and suffering have started actions in motion that may save others from similar fates. In effect, they’ve become heroes for local renters. We’ve posted some updates on the balcony collapse situation here:

http://www.denenapoints.com/library/know-your-rights-as-a-renter-to-a-fit-and-safe-place-to-live.cfm

http://www.denenapoints.com/blog/on-the-wisdom-of-placing-purely-decorative-balconies-on-high-floors.cfm

http://www.denenapoints.com/news/denton-officials-to-apartment-complexes-secure-decorative-balconies20110914.cfm