In 2018, California passed a new law requiring building owners of 3 or more residential units to have all balconies or decks on premises inspected every 6 years. It is a fairly comprehensive law which is intended to prevent another balcony collapse like what happened in Berkeley, CA in June 2015 which killed 6 people and severely injured many others. Here is a quick summary of the California Balcony Law (Senate Bill #721) and what building owners and property managers need to know.
Which balconies need to be inspected?
Any elevated elements (aka: decks or balconies) attached to buildings with 3 or more units must be inspected.
What is considered an “Elevated Element”?
Exterior elevated elements are defined as structures, including their supports and railings, balconies, decks, porches, stairways, walkways, and entry structures that extend beyond the exterior walls of the building and which have a walking surface that is elevated more than 6 feet above ground level; are designed for human occupancy or use, and rely in whole or substantially in part on wood or wood based products for structural support or stability of the exterior elevated element.
When do they need to be inspected?
All buildings in the state of California are required to be inspected by January 1, 2025 and be re-inspected every 6 years.
Who can inspect the balcony or deck?
- A Licensed Architect
- A Civil or structural engineer
- A Licensed Contractor holding a “A”, “B”, or “C-5” classification (with 5 years’ experience)
- Individual Certified as a Building Inspector
What is the purpose of this inspection?
To inspect the waterproofing elements and structural components of balconies and decks to confirm they are safe and free of hazardous conditions. Common conditions found are dry rot, metal rust corrosion, and improper alterations.
What Is a “Waterproofing Element”?
Waterproofing includes flashing, membranes, coating, and sealants that protect the load-bearing components of exterior elevated elements from exposure to water and the elements.
What is required in the inspection report?
The report is required to include photographs, any test results, and a narrative description of the condition of the balcony or deck which will establish a baseline of the condition of inspected components for subsequent inspections.
What is considered an immediate repair item?
Immediate repairs are when any balcony or deck assembly poses an immediate threat to the safety of the occupants and preventing occupant access and conducting emergency repairs – including shoring – are necessary. The report should be delivered to the owner of the building and to the local enforcement agency within 15 days. Immediate repairs shall be considered an emergency condition and the owner of the building shall perform required preventive measures immediately.
What is considered only corrective work?
Corrective work is any item which does not pose an immediate threat to the safety of the occupants but still needs be to corrected. Owners must apply for building permits for these repairs within 120 days of the report and another 120 days to complete the repairs.
Can an inspector make recommended repairs?
No. Repairs must be made by a licensed contractor no serving as the inspector.
How long must the Inspection Report be kept?
Copies of this report should be maintained in the building owner’s records for at least 2 inspection cycles and shall be disclosed and delivered to the buyer at the time of any subsequent sale of the building.
What are the penalties if you don’t get your balcony inspected?
If an owner does not complete the recommend repairs within 180 days, the inspector is responsible for notifying the local enforcement agency and building owner. The local enforcement agency is able to assess between $100 to $500 penalty per day until the work is complete.
Click here, to download a copy of the California Balcony Inspection Law (Senate Bill #721)
What about a townhome development in which each TH has a balcony? Since they each have their own legal APN, are they exempt?
Yes. The law calls out “buildings with 3 or more multifamily dwelling units”. Townhouses would not be classify as a multifamily building.