By Mike Dunn

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – An attorney representing a group of landlords in Philadelphia say Saturday night’s fatal collapse of a fire escape in Center City (see related story) points to a long-running problem: tenants using the fire escapes as balconies.

Darryl Zaslow of HAPCO, a group representing rental property owners, says all too often younger renters use fire escapes to smoke or to hang out, and potentially overload it.

He says Saturday’s collapse is a stark reminder to owners and tenants of the dangers, “We are concerned about the fire escape being misused and certainly overloaded. This tragedy will be a wake-up call to make sure that tenants do not do that. And for tenants themselves, to be sure that they’re treating these fire escapes as what they’re supposed to be — an emergency exit, not a balcony.”

Zaslow would not speak to the specifics of Saturday’s collapse, but he says many landlords put language in their leases about proper use of fire escapes, and more now may do so.

“This tragedy will have owners being very careful in explaining to their tenants the danger of misusing the fire escape, and the breach of the lease if in fact they do that.”

Zaslow says landlords may need to highlight the lease language about fire escapes, or may need to post signs on the fire escapes.

None of his advice, he says, is meant to pass the buck from the owners to the tenants. “The responsibility still remains (on the owner) that the fire escape and balcony portions need to be safely maintained.”