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Bill calls for balconies at multifamily dwellings to be inspected at least every five years

January 24, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Young
Young

The 2008 death of a man in Massachusetts has prompted Sen. Ronald N. Young to call for inspections of balconies in Maryland at least once every five years.

Jonathan Train died after the balcony railing on his second-floor apartment in Needham, Mass., gave way and he fell, according to his mother, Jennifer Mykytyn of New Market, Md.

It was Super Bowl Sunday. When his fiance went to the kitchen, Train stepped onto the balcony to smoke a cigar, Mykytyn said.

Tenants previously told the landlord that the railing was rotted, she said.

Mykytyn’s connection to Young was through his wife, Karen. The women trained together for their bat mitzvah, a Jewish rite of passage usually held at age 13.

However, Mykytyn and Karen Young, a Frederick city alderman, had their bat mitzvah as adults, in January 2010.

Ronald Young, D-Frederick/Washington, has filed a bill calling for multifamily dwellings — such as apartment houses, dormitories, convents, monasteries, time-share properties, hotels and motels — to be inspected at least every five years.

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The state’s Minimum Livability Code already sets standards for buildings and their components to be maintained and structurally sound, said Andy DeVilbiss, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

Violation of the current law is a misdemeanor punishable by up to three months in jail, a fine of up to $500 a day, or both.

The proposal in the bill would put the onus on local governments to inspect balconies on a regular timetable, DeVilbiss said.

The city of Hagerstown currently inspects rental properties when they change hands, but there is no set schedule.

John Lestitian, the city’s director of community and economic development who oversees code administration, said the city is still examining Young’s bill, “but we do believe it’s going to have an impact on our operations.”

Lestitian said inspectors would have to go inside buildings to make a thorough inspection of balconies, rather than checking them from outside.

The bill, titled “Jonathan’s Law,” includes categories of properties, including hotels and motels, not covered in the city’s rental inspection program.

Lestitian said hotels and motels are inspected if there’s a complaint.

Mykytyn, 66, said her son was 32 years old when he died.
An emergency room doctor called Mykytyn to tell her that her son had died.

“It felt like lightning went through me,” she said.

Mykytyn said Massachusetts later passed a law requiring balcony inspections. Through people she knows, she is also trying to get lawmakers in South Carolina and Colorado to do the same.

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