NEW SB721 BALCONY INSPECTION LAW IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
The SB721 (Chapter 445, Stats.2018) was signed into law by Governor Brown in reaction to the 2015 Berkeley balcony collapse. On June 16th, 2015, shortly after midnight, six students died and others were injured after a balcony on the 5th floor of an apartment building collapsed on which these students were standing. The students were celebrating a 21st birthday party in Berkeley CA. After investigation, it was discovered that dry rot of the framing was the reason why the balcony failed. It was also noted that the balcony framing was not constructed properly, leading to dry rot, leading to the collapse of the balcony and deeming it structurally unstable.

California Balcony Law: This California Law requires the inspection of specific balconies throughout the State of California after the Berkeley Balcony Collapse. Buildings with Required Inspections: buildings with 3 or more units that have balconies, decks, stairways, and entry structures that depend entirely or significantly on wood base framing for structural supports or stability. Other inspection requirements are for walking surfaces that are elevated above 6ft from the ground, and balconies that are intended for human occupancy or use.

Targeted Inspection Completion Time: All structural elements mentioned in the previous section shall be inspected by January 1st, 2025, and require periodic inspection every 6 years. Any new building with the permit of occupancy issued after January 1st, 2019, shall happen no later than 6 years following the issuance of the occupancy certificate.

Qualified Inspection Personal: Inspection required by this law shall be performed by: a licensed civil or structural engineer, general contractor holding any or all A, B, or C-5 licenses issued by the contractor State License Board, or someone holding a building inspection certificate. It is recommended to hire a licensed structural engineer in the State of California as they are the most familiar personnel with code requirements and design guidelines.

The inspection Shall Cover the Following Items: This Inspection is required by law to include the following items: 1) Inspection of any exterior balcony elements or associated waterproofing elements that if determined deficient, damaged, or improper, to the extent that it does not meet design criteria and requirements, in the inspector’s view, would constitute a threat to the health or safety of the occupants. 2) Waterproofing elements such as flashings, membranes, coatings, and sealants, that protect the elevated framing members from water and elements exposure. 3) Assessment of elevated elements using visual examination or comparable means of evaluating their performance. At least 15% of each type of elevated exterior element shall be inspected by the inspector. 4) The inspection assessment shall cover the following as of the date of inspection: the current condition of the exterior elevated elements, the future expectation of performance for these elements for the service life of these elements, recommendations for any future inspections, and recommendations of any required repair or retrofit.

Inspection Report: The inspector shall write two reports, an initial report for the first visit to the site including photos of inspected elevated elements and an elaborative description of the conditions of each inspected structural element listing any damages and areas that require immediate attention, and the second report shall be written after the repair of the damaged elements have been completed to verify code compliance and safety requirements for human occupancy is met. A copy of this report shall be presented to the property owners within 45 days from the inspection date and 15 days if any elevated elements during the first visit require immediate attention. If any elevated elements require immediate attention, a copy of the report shall be submitted to the local enforcement agency and repair drawings and details shall be prepared immediately. These reports shall be kept by the property owners for at least two cycles of inspection and shall be disclosed and presented to any potential future buyer of these properties.

Types of Repairs: Two types of outcomes can be found in the report presented by the inspectors:

Immediate attention: any exterior elevated elements that the hired inspector pose an immediate threat to the safety of the human occupancy, or finds preventing occupant access or emergency repairs, including shoring, or both, shall be deemed emergency condition and the owners of the building shall conduct preventive measures right away. Repairs of these elements shall take place immediately and a copy of this report shall be presented to the local enforcement agency for record keeping.

No Immediate attention: If any inspected elevated elements are not deemed an emergency yet requires corrective work to be performed, the owners are permitted to submit for a permit within 120 days from the date of report receiving. Upon plan approval, the owners shall perform the repair accordingly within 120 days unless an extension is granted by the local enforcement agency. If the owners fail to complete the work within 180 days, they are to be reported by the inspector of record to the local agency. If the owners do not perform the repairs within the 30 days’ notice from the agency, they will be assessed a civil penalty fee of not less than $100 or more than $500 per day until repairs of the damaged elevated elements are completed. This civil penalty can lead to a building safety lien and may be recorded¬†against the property.