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When off-campus rental housing proves to be a death trap: Part I

Most New Yorkers who own a business have probably been frustrated at one time or another by local building, fire and safety codes. Certainly, keeping a building up to code often requires a lot of work and added expense.

What most people fail to appreciate, however, is that safety codes are meant to prevent fatal and injurious accidents as well as to allow people to escape safely during an emergency. Whenever a fire or other emergency claims several lives, it’s usually a safe bet that the building was not up to code.

A good example of this problem can be found in off-campus housing for college students in many big cities. These properties are often in disrepair and altered in ways that maximize the number of tenants. Overcrowding and disrepair can make these buildings a death trap in the event of a fire.

The Boston Globe recently reported on a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a young woman who died in an off-campus rental property in April 2013. She was originally from Brooklyn, but left New York to attend Boston University.

At the time of her death in a house fire, the 22-year-old student named Binland was living in a rental house that had been converted from six bedrooms into 12, yet was housing 14 people. Her family’s lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of the landlord and the brokers for renting a property that was in violation of safety and fire codes.

Indeed, many of the alleged violations are common in similar off-campus rental properties. Please check back later this week as we continue our discussion.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Family of BU student killed in fire prepares lawsuit,” Jenn Abelson, Aug. 20, 2014

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