THE CALIFORNIA BALCONY INSPECTION BILL SB-721 & SB-326

THE CALIFORNIA BALCONY
INSPECTION BILL

SB-721 & SB-326

Feb. 7 2022 - Erik Piller

In 2015 a group of young adults gathered in their Berkeley apartment to celebrate a birthday. What started as a joyous celebration ended with the death of five and injuries of seven more. The tragedy continued in January, when sadly, one of the injured died as a result of injuries sustained that night.  

The tragedy sparked the investigation of the balcony structure. While it was discovered that corners were cut by the construction company, the building’s management company was also found to be at fault. The primary cause of the collapse was concluded to be rot in the load-bearing elements of the balcony, however, the renters had reported indications of moisture build-up prior to the incident. It was reported that the management company did not handle this complaint with the proper care.

In 2017, settlements were paid out to the families with both the construction and management company being cited as at fault. As a result the state of California began the process of trying to prevent something like this from happening again. 

That’s what spurred the creation of SB-721 and SB-326.

The purpose of the inspection is to determine that exterior elevated elements and their associated waterproofing elements are in a generally safe condition, adequate working order, and free from any hazardous condition caused by fungus, deterioration, decay, or improper alteration to the extent that the life, limb, health, property, safety, or welfare of the public or the occupants is not endangered. The person or business performing the inspection shall be hired by the owner of the building.
 

These building standards were adopted in 2018 and came into effect on January 1, 2019.

Two Bills, Two Purposes

An elevated exterior element is defined by California Legislature as:

Elevated exterior elements include balconies, decks, porches, stairways, walkways, and entry structures that extend beyond exterior walls of the building, including their supports and railings.

 The primary differences between SB-721 and SB-326 are who they affect and the frequency of inspection. The inspections themselves are fairly similar. 

SB-721
Applies to landlords of buildings with three or more multi-family dwelling units. The first inspection is required by January 1, 2025 and then every six years after. 

SB-326 
Applies to condominium associations. The first inspection is required by January 1, 2025 and then every nine years after. 

The bills affect any building with more than two residential units. Exceptions are made if there are no elevated exterior elements intended for human occupancy more than six feet above ground level, or the structural support or stability of the exterior elevated elements does not rely on wood or wood-based products in whole or in substantial part.

The inspection requires the evaluation of at least 15 percent of each type of exterior elevated element. The requirement extends to 15% of each element, not 15% of buildings or units. For example, buildings that have more than one type of balcony, may require evaluation of 15% of each type of balcony. Inspectors are going to look at load-bearing components and associated waterproofing elements. Read more stats here!

The Inspection Process

The requirements of EEE inspectors are a little different between the two bills. SB-326 states that the inspection can only be performed by an architect or structural engineer. While SB-721 states:

The inspection shall be performed by a licensed architect; licensed civil or structural engineer; a building contractor holding any or all of the “A,” “B,” or “C-5” license classifications issued by the Contractors’ State License Board, with a minimum of five years’ experience, as a holder of the aforementioned classifications or licenses, in constructing multi-story wood frame buildings; or an individual certified as a building inspector or building official from a recognized state, national, or international association, as determined by the local jurisdiction. These individuals shall not be employed by the local jurisdiction while performing these inspections. 

From inspection to any issue resolution, Bureau Veritas has you covered. If our EEE inspector discovers anything that needs to be corrected, you don’t have to worry. Our engineering team will come up with a solution. Then our project managers can take you through to completion. No matter what type of EEE inspection you face, the team at BV can help.