Residents express shock, anger after apartment balconies collapse

CREATED Sep. 20, 2013 - UPDATED: Sep. 20, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - Two people were hurt after a balcony collapsed on a building in Milwaukee, and police call the debacle a case of home repair gone wrong. 

Building managers claim they gave residents fair warning.

Those families flatly deny that claim - and they're the ones now residing in a Red Cross shelter.

Thirty-three people spent Thursday night at a local church. The collapse cut off a main stairwell and entrance to their apartments.

All of them denied any warning about those decrepit balconies - and instead told us how one day they noticed their back doors boarded up with plywood.

The Red Cross tells TODAY'S TMJ4 it has been advised by building inspectors that because the apartments only have one functional exit, that violates fire codes and the building must stay off-limits.

No one will be allowed to live there until the porches are repaired.  But the landlord is allowing current tenants inside to get items like medicine.

The building has been plagued by problems for years. Code violations include an order from 2008 to "Make repairs to a defective common staircase on south side of the building."

The Department of Neighborhood Services reports there should’ve been a permit to do work on the porches. There was no permit taken out.

“I think we have an effective mechanism in terms of the number of inspections we do,” adds Commissioner Art Dahlberg.

One police officer who saw the damage called it “a case of home repair gone wrong.” The building’s violations date back five years. There were orders to repair defective concrete ceilings and a deteriorating staircase.

Residents were allowed back inside Friday to gather their belongings. When the landlord showed up - things got heated.

Angry residents demanded answers from Elijah Mohammed Rashaed Friday night. He owns the building. Rashaed ran from the crowd and our cameras after showing up at the scene.

"I just haven't had a chance to speak with him," says Isaac Taylor. "I'm sure he's in shock and everything."

Taylor is Rashaed's cousin.

"I just figured everything was up to code and that he was getting the porch worked on and all of the sudden this happened."

Taylor was there to help some family members move out. They were given only 24 hours.

"We can't get everything," says Benny Baldon. "We just have to get the important stuff."

Other resdients say they can't even get that, claiming some of their belongings were stolen out of the abandoned building overnight.

Lives turned upside down - without the explanation they need.

"Who knows, I mean, it's looking pretty bad," says Taylor.

What's still unclear right now is just how much trouble the owner faces. The city says they are investigating.