SB721 The Balcony Law

Hopefully most of you out there are aware of SB721, the balcony and deck inspection law.  If you haven’t,  SB721 was passed in 2018 in an attempt to make sure that balconies, decks, porches, stairways and walkways are in “generally safe condition, adequate working order, and free from any hazardous conditions…”.  Specifically, there is an emphasis on making sure they are not only structurally sound but also generally waterproof to prevent deterioration.  We will be covering multiple topics including timeframes and completion dates, what buildings qualify for inspection, who is qualified to do the inspection and a general explanation of the process.  

First of all, does your building need to have an inspection completed.  All buildings with three or more units on a lot, fall under this law.  Based on conversation with inspectors, these units do not need to be attached to qualify.  In other words, if you have a front house, with two units in the back, you should talk to an inspection company.  The 2ndcondition of whether your property needs evaluation is based on if you have “exterior elevated elements”.  The ”exterior elevated elements”  refer to “the following types of structures, including their supports and railings: balconies, decks, porches, stairways, walkways, and entry structures that extend beyond exterior walls of the building and which have a walking surface that is elevated more than six feet above ground level, are designed for human occupancy or use, and rely in whole or in substantial part on wood or wood-based products for structural support or stability of the exterior elevated element”.  Above is direct text from SB721.  If you feel that any of these apply to your building, you should consult with an inspector.   

The 2nd aspect of this law would be the time frames involved with the inspections and time frames involved with the work.  Most Importantly, qualifying buildings need to be inspected by January 1st, 2025.  The law also stipulates that the buildings will need to be inspected every six years.  Once the building is inspected, the company doing the inspection will write a report and submit it to the state.  If your elevated elements are free of any problems, there will be nothing left to do and you will get the inspection report within 45 days of completion.    You are required to have the inspection done every six years and you hold on to the inspection report for at least two balcony inspection cycles which we interpret to be 12 years.  It is our understanding that the state will get a copy only if there are corrections required.

If corrections are required, non-emergency repairs will be required to be completed within 180 days.  If an extension is required, they will allow it but it must be approved by the local authority, which would most likely be your City code enforcement wing.  If repairs are not completed within the time frame and no extension is approved, you will be given a 30 day notice by local authorities and fines may be imposed after the expiration of that notice.  For a building that has non emergency repairs that require a permit, a permit must be filed for within 120 days of the inspection.  Once the permit is approved, you will have an additional 120 days to complete the work. Lastly are emergency repairs.  Emergency repairs will be submitted to you and local enforcement within 15 days of the inspection.  There is no specificity in the law in regards to time frames of emergency repairs but work should be started immediately.  

Who is qualified to do the inspection?  We will quote the law here as no interpretation is needed. “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 multistory 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.” One of the other stipulations that is important to note is, the company performing the inspection cannot be the company you contract with to do the repairs.  Since some of the repairs will require permits and since the work will be re-inspected at a later date.  Please hire a licensed General Contractor to do the work.  This is not the time to use your handyman that can “do everything”.  

In conclusion, get going as soon as possible.  Make sure you are hiring the correct people to do the inspections, to ensure they are done on time and take corrective action if needed.  This law will be burdensome to people who have major repairs to complete but you will have ample time if you start right away.  Also, below is a link to the actual law. Please read through the law yourself and don’t take any chances.  Even if you don’t feel the law applies to your properties, please consult with a licensed inspector for confirmation.  Article Note:  Please read through SB721 to confirm the information in this article.  Also, please contact a licensed inspector or contractor for more detailed information and for any questions you have about SB721. 

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general guidance only and should not be considered as legal advice. We strongly encourage you to review the full text of SB721 at https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB721 to ensure accuracy and comprehensiveness. For personalized advice or specific questions regarding SB721, please consult with a licensed professional inspector or contractor.

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