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Does Your Soft-Story Building Need a Balcony Inspection? What is the Balcony Inspection Bill?

SB 721, Hill. Building standards: decks and balconies: Inspection for apartments not an HOA or condominium.

The issue is the scope (or extent) of the inspection is not clearly defined in the ordinance. Saunders Construction is working with engineers and state officials to clarify the extent of the inspections! Due to the ambiguity of the ordinance, current inspections may or may not be completed to satisfy the code. 

The ordinance states, a sample of at least 15 percent of each type of exterior elevated element shall be inspected BUT is not clear how much of that structure is to be inspected. If the structure has stucco finishes, the inspection penetration must be fire rated (a plug or caulking is not fire rated).

This bill would require an inspection of exterior elevated elements and associated waterproofing elements, as defined, including decks and balconies, for buildings with 3 or more multifamily dwelling units by a licensed architect, licensed civil or structural engineer, a building contractor holding specified licenses, or an individual certified as a building inspector or building official, as specified. The bill would require the inspections, including any necessary testing, to be completed by January 1, 2025, with certain exceptions, and would require subsequent inspections every 6 years, except as specified. The bill would require the inspection report to contain specified items and would require that a copy of the inspection report be presented to the owner of the building within 45 days of the completion of the inspection and would require copies of the reports to be maintained in the building owner’s records for 2 inspection cycles, as specified.

The bill would require that if the inspection reveals conditions that pose an immediate hazard to the safety of the occupants, the inspection report be delivered to the owner of the building within 15 days and emergency repairs be undertaken, as specified, with notice given to the local enforcement agency. The nonemergency repairs made under these provisions would be required to be completed within 120 days, unless an extension is granted by the local authorities. The bill would authorize local enforcement agencies to recover enforcement costs associated with these requirements. The bill would require the local enforcement agency to send a 30-day corrective notice to the owner of the building if repairs are not completed on time and would provide for specified civil penalties and liens against the property for the owner of the building who fails to comply with these provisions. The bill would exclude a common interest development, as defined, from these provisions. The bill would require any building subject to these provisions that is proposed for conversion to condominiums to be sold to the public after January 1, 2019, to have the required inspection conducted prior to the first close of escrow of a separate interest in the project, and would require the inspection report and written confirmation by the inspector that any recommended repairs or replacements have been completed to be submitted to, among others, the Department of Real Estate and included in certain required statements and reports, as specified. The bill would authorize a local governing entity to enact stricter requirements than those imposed by these provisions.

Source: SB 721 (Hill), Ch.445, Stats. 2018

In summary, who can perform these inspections on what type of buildings by when?

Who can perform inspection? A licensed architect, civil or structural engineer or General Contractor holding A, B or C-5 Licenses issued by the Contractor State License Board.

What type of buildings? Owners of multifamily (soft-story) apartment buildings with three or more units that have:

  • Balconies, decks, porches, stairways, walkways, and entry structures that extend beyond exterior walls of the building and that rely in whole or in substantial part on wood or wood-based products for structural support or stability; and
  • A walking surface that is elevated more than 6 feet above the ground level; and
  • Balconies designed for human occupancy or use.

When is the deadline for the first inspection? January 1, 2025

For more information regarding the reports and specifics, California Apartment Association.

Please contact Saunders Construction if you have any questions regarding the structural integrity of your soft-story building,

Posted Under: soft story