Attorney names contractor in balcony collapse

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by STEVE ALBERTS

kvue.com

Posted on August 11, 2010 at 5:25 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 11 at 6:48 PM

Eleven days after a second-story balcony collapsed at Victor Wong's condo in Southeast Austin, a chain link fence and yellow police tape are still up. Austin city officials say the property is too dangerous and will not let Wong back in.

“The deck is still dangling so we are concerned about safety,” said Stephanie Lott with the Planning and Development Department. “We don't want anyone to go back in there until we know it's safe and no one else will get hurt.”

The wooden deck gave way on August 1, during an after-hours party. More than two dozen people are recovering, most from broken bones, some from bruised kidneys, and a woman from a lacerated liver.

Wong’s attorney says the deck and spiral staircase were built back in January by Les Filip.  The attorney also says Filip promised it would be built to codes.

Filip owns enDesign in South Austin.  KVUE went to his office, but he was not there. The doors were locked, and inside you could see what looked like books stacked up. A woman at a neighboring office says he works late nights and has not seen him in a while.

KVUE also went to Filip's house. He did not answer. One neighbor told us he is a night owl and keeps to himself.

The deck was built without a permit. Austin Code Compliance also cited Wong for electrical violations.

Wong's brother, Calvin, owns the condo and faces the same citations.  The contractor is also facing citations.

It is the property owners' responsibility to make sure the contractor gets the proper permits for the construction project.

“There are a lot of things that require a permit. Basically, any new structure that is over 200 square feet will need a permit, fences over six feet high, and retaining walls over four feet high. Water tanks over 5,000 gallons and prefabricated swimming pools over two feet deep all need permits,” said Lott. “You don’t need a permit for painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, counter tops and similar finish work.”

By property owners and contractors working together and knowing the rules, city officials say tragic accidents can be avoided.

If you have any question you can call the Development Assistance Center, at 974-6370.

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