This is the second blog in a series of four blogs that we will publish over the next few weeks, all having to do with the upcoming mandatory obligation of owners of multi-family residential apartment buildings and condominiums in the City of Los Angeles to conduct a thorough safety inspection and repair (if necessary) of their buildings’ wood-framed balconies and other exterior elevated elements (“EEE”) (e.g., walkways, stairways, decks, etc.). Today’s blog is all about how to choose a balcony inspection and repair company in Los Angeles!
Balcony inspection and repair laws quick recap
Just as a quick recap, in the aftermath of the tragic collapse of a wood-rotted 4th floor balcony of an apartment building in Berkeley which killed a number of young students, California legislators passed new laws aimed at ensuring the safety of balconies and other EEE in residential apartment and condominium buildings. The new laws, Senate Bills 721 and 326, require mandatory inspections, maintenance, and repair of such balconies and EEEs.
How to choose a balcony inspection and repair company?
At Weinstein Construction, we are the first ones to remind owners of apartment and condominium buildings of the importance of conducting thorough research before selecting a balcony inspection and repair company to work with, on such an important initiative! The following are ten tips in making an informed hiring decision!
Tip No. 1. Is the inspection and repair company licensed? You want your inspection and repair contractor to be licensed, as that signifies that the contractor is in compliance with the State of California’s requirements for providing construction services. Because a significant number of construction companies out there operate without a proper license, which is against the law, you must verify a contractor’s license on the California Contractors State License Board (“CSLB”) website. Remember, hiring an unlicensed inspection and repair company poses a significant risk!
Tip No. 2. How long has the inspection and repair company been in business, and has it always operated under its current name? This is important to check, because it’s fairly common for some construction firms to have a name change every few years, especially after they get into trouble or go out of business. You want to know if your inspection and repair company has gone through some “shady” changes in the past!
Tip No. 3. How long has the inspection and repair company been in business? Many such firms lack the experience required to inspect and repair balconies and other EEE. We always recommend selecting a company that has a minimum of 10 years construction industry experience, and a track record in undertaking such work. You need to know that the company you picked knows what it is doing!
Tip No. 4. Is the owner of the inspection and repair company also its licensed operator, or is the company under a Responsible Managed Operation (“RMO”) situation? In some inspection and repair companies, the owner may not hold the required license to perform the work. In such cases, the company’s owner relies on someone else’s license (for instance, a retired contractor who “rents out” their license). This arrangement is often not favorable for you as the client, and as such, you should typically only engage an inspection and repair company where its owner and operator is also the one that holds the license.
Tip No. 5. Is the inspection and repair company bonded and insured? A bonded contractor has acquired a surety bond, safeguarding you from potential losses due to property damage from shoddy or incomplete work. If the inspection and repair company causes any damage, you can file a claim and receive compensation from the “surety” (the insurance company) that issued the company’s bond. It is always recommended to hire a bonded inspection and repair company. Moreover, having contractor insurance protects both the contractor and you against potential losses. Hiring insured contractors is always the best way to go, as they are more able to manage their operational risk!
Tip No. 6. Does the inspection and repair company maintain a physical office with office staff? Many construction companies lack a physical office or any office personnel, and are essentially “fly-by-night” operations run from a garage with just a P.O. Box and voicemail. Don’t fall into this trap, and only hire a contractor that has a bricks-and-mortar office in the Los Angeles area!
Tip No. 7. Does the inspection and repair company have its own full-time, in-house construction crews? Many inspection and repair companies hire day laborers every morning and bus them to a project site. Such day laborers have unknown backgrounds and often lack experience. Do yourself a favor, and don’t gamble on hiring contractors that rely on day laborers for their workforce. Instead, ask how long the workers have been working for the company, whether they live locally or commute from a distance, and ask to have only experienced workers scheduled on your project!
Tip No. 8. Are the inspection and repair company’s work crews trained and certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)? Many construction companies don’t provide their employees with any health and safety training, and this can potentially pose a significant risk to your project, as OSHA plays a vital role in regulating, educating, and promoting a safe and healthy work environment. Only hire a company that requires its employees to undergo California OSHA training!
Tip No. 9. Does the inspection and repair company have Workers’ Compensation coverage? Incredibly, many construction firms don’t provide their employees with the legally-mandated Workers’ Compensation coverage. If you hire a contractor without this coverage and an injury happens on the project, you could potentially be responsible for covering the medical expenses of an injured worker! Therefore, it is imperative that you only hire a construction company that has Workers’ Compensation coverage!
Tip No. 10. Does the inspection and repair company obtain the required city construction permits and adheres to city-approved plans? Some construction companies engage in “off the books” projects, without city permits, plans, and inspections, and this may cost you in terms of project delays, fines, compromised worker safety, and your unlimited liability for damages and safety violations. It goes without saying, you should only hire a construction company that operates with city-approved plans, a city permit, and the required inspections.
If you are wondering how Weinstein Construction stacks up to the 10 tips we offer in this blog, rest assured that we meet all of these high standards! The professionals at Weinstein Construction are experts in balcony inspections and repair – call us today at 866-623-5788 to schedule a free “Balcony Law” consultation – get help in planning for this important and mandatory inspection program and take advantage of lower prices today!