Building owner had numerous violations before porch collapse

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by Matt Doyle

Milwaukee -- Department of Neighborhood Services says there have been 145 code violations in the past, but the owner kept up with them.  The problem is the owner went ahead with demolition work without getting a permit - something that seems to be a trend.
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"Obviously the way they were demolishing those concrete slabs was not a prudent way to do business," DNS Commissioner Art Dahlberg said.  "As a result people got hurt."

The top floor porch plowed down through the others Thursday.

 James Mitchell lives on the first floor and  saw it happen.

"He was working on it and it collapsed, like it collapsed," Mitchell said.

Still in shock from what happened, he's stuck at a Red Cross Emergency shelter a few blocks away.  Most of his belongings still in the boarded up building.

"All of our stuff is still there," Mitchell said.  "Only thing they'd allow us to get is some clothes, little stuff like that and food. That's all we could get, as much as we can carry."

Dahlberg says the building owner was trying replace the concrete porches with wood ones..

"No one had applied for a permit," Dahl said.  "Clearly this requires permits."

Dahlberg says this is the exact reason why people need a permit.

"All of those processes are meant to protect not only the well-being of the workers but the people that live in those buidlings."

We tried to reach the building owner Elijah Mohammed Rashead, or Mohammed Bell as some tenants called him, but didn't hear back. 

"The responsibility of maintaining a building lies solely on the landlord," Dahl said.

Alderman Bob Donovan has seen this before and knows something has to change.

"Sometimes landlords cut corners," Donovan said.  "That concerns me. All of these people are now displaced. That creates all sorts of difficulties housing them, so on and so forth. But you can understand when we're dealing with buildings like this it is absolutely critical that we get licensed contractors who know what they're doing."

The Red Cross says it'll stay open as long as the displaced tenants need.

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