CALIFORNIA’S MANDATORY “BALCONY INSPECTION LAWS” (SB 721 AND SB 326)
Two California state laws, California Senate Bill 721 (SB 721) and California Senate Bill 326 (SB 326), have been “on the books” for a while, and both have important consequences in the coming years for apartment building owners and residential home owners’ associations (also known as “HOA’s”).
These “California Balcony Inspection Laws” were passed by the California legislature in 2018 and 2019, in response to the 2015 death of six UC Berkeley students at a downtown apartment complex due to the collapse of a fifth-floor balcony. The legislature determined that these deaths would have been preventable, if a proper inspection was done to determine that the balcony was in poor condition.
WHAT DO CALIFORNIA BILLS SB 721 AND SB 326 REQUIRE?
It is important to note that one law, SB 721, relates to multi-family residential apartment buildings (commercial apartment buildings) and the second law, SB 326, relates to condominiums controlled by a “HOA”. While the two laws are similar, they do have some important differences.
First, the similarities: both laws require inspections that evaluate the structural integrity, flashings, and waterproofing of decks, balconies, and other external, “Exterior Elevated Elements” (“EEE”) that rely in whole or in substantial part on wood structural supports, in buildings that have 3 or more units and 2 or more stories in height.
Such EEE are structures (including supports and railings) such as: 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 stability of the exterior elevated element. Also included in the required inspections are the EEE’s “associated waterproofing elements” (i.e., flashings, membranes, coatings, and sealants).
Second, note below the various differences in the laws: