A 53-year-old Portland, Maine, man was killed last week when a deck railing at his rented apartment broke loose, local news outlets reported. "Police said Donald Stain was leaning against a balcony railing when it gave way, sending him into a backyard," reports local TV station WCSH Channel 6 (see: "Man plunges 2 stories, dies after railing gives way"). "Stain's brother, Bert Stain, said his brother lived in the building for 14 years and that tenants had been complaining about the rear porch for several years," WCSH reported.
The death adds to pressure from Portland citizens for increased city efforts to enforce safety standards in the city's rental housing market, the Portland Press Herald reported (see: "Man's death in fall from second-floor porch adds to calls for housing safety office in Portland," by Edward D. Murphy). "We are deeply saddened by the death of yet another Portland resident from unsafe housing conditions," the Portland Tenants Union said in a statement Thursday about the death of Donald Stain. "When is the city going to take action and start protecting residents from unfit and unsafe housing? Landlords must be held accountable."
"The city budget proposed this month includes $600,000 to establish a housing safety office that would be funded by fees assessed on local landlords," the Press Herald reports. "The proposal to create a housing office, which would include fire safety inspectors, comes in response to a fire that killed six people on Noyes Street in November."
After the death, Portland officials took action at the building, issuing a violation notice to the owner, the Press Herald reported (see: "Portland orders porches removed from building where fall killed tenant," by Edward D. Murphy). "The city ordered that the building's three exterior porches be off-limits until they can be removed, and identified a handful of other life-safety code violations, according to a letter issued by Deputy Director of Inspections Jonathan Rioux," the paper reported.
Earlier inspections of the building by the Portland Housing Authority, required to establish the apartment's eligibility for Section 8 housing subsidies, had not revealed the unsafe porch railing, the Press Herald reports. That program does not require inspection of outdoor decks. Reports the paper: "The city does not perform routine building inspections for items like structural integrity, but instead responds to complaints. There is no Maine law requiring porches to be inspected after they are built. In some parts of the country, local communities do require occasional inspections. In New York City, owners of buildings that are more than six stories high must have balconies and facades inspected for structural safety every five years and that information then must be forwarded to the city. San Francisco requires all porches and exterior stairs to be inspected every five years."