Are You Ready to Meet Balcony Inspection Requirements by the January 1, 2025 Deadline?

As we approach the dawn of a new year, property owners and managers find themselves facing a crucial deadline that demands attention – the Balcony Inspection Requirements set to take effect on January 1, 2025. In this blog, we will explore the importance of these inspections, understand why they matter, and discuss how you can ensure your property is prepared to meet the looming deadline. Let’s discuss it in more detail!

Understanding Balcony Inspection Requirements

Following the tragic balcony collapse in Berkeley that claimed the lives of seven students in 2015, Governor Jerry Brown sanctioned SB721 inspection on September 17, 2018. Commonly known as the “Balcony Inspection Law,” this bill came into effect on January 1, 2019, with the stipulated deadline for initial inspections set for January 1, 2025. 

The amendment to Section 1954 of the Civil Code, known as the Balcony Inspection Law, incorporated Article 2.2 (commencing with Section 17973) into Chapter 5 of Division 13 of the Health & Safety Code, providing explicit regulations for building standards.

What Are the Requirements of the Balcony Inspection Law?

The Balcony Inspection Law mandates the examination of “exterior elevated elements” in all multi-family residential buildings in CA with three or more dwelling units. The first inspections must be concluded by January 1, 2025, and subsequent inspections will be conducted every six years. Building owners must retain copies of all inspection reports for at least two inspection cycles, equivalent to twelve years. 

These inspection reports must be furnished to prospective buyers of the building and made available to jurisdictional officials upon request. While the Balcony Inspection Law outlines minimum inspection and repair standards at the state level, it’s crucial to recognize that local jurisdictions may impose more rigorous inspection requirements.

What Meets the Criteria for an “Exterior Elevated Element”?

Under the Balcony Inspection Law, ‘exterior elevated elements’ subject to inspection are defined as structures meeting the following criteria:

  • Balconies, walkways, decks, stairways, porches, and entry structures (including supports and railings) extend beyond the building’s exterior walls, incorporating walking surfaces.
  • Walking surfaces elevated more than six feet above ground level.
  • Structural reliance, either entirely or substantially, on wood or wood-based products for support or stability.
  • Though not visibly apparent, many such elements may consist of concrete slabs supported by wood floor joists.
  • If you are still determining the applicability of the Balcony Inspection Law to your building, it is advisable to consult a qualified professional capable of conducting inspections.

Who Performs the Balcony Inspections?

To comply with the Balcony Inspection Law, the building proprietor is required to engage the services of one of the following for the inspection task: 

  • A licensed architect. 
  • A building contractor with any or all of the A, B, or C-5 license certifications issued by the Contractors’ State License Board and a minimum of five years’ experience.
  • A licensed civil or structural engineer. 
  • A certified individual as a building inspector or building official by a recognized international, national, or state association as determined by the local jurisdiction. 

Remember the inspector is prohibited from being employed by the local jurisdiction during the inspection process.

What Happens If the Inspector Detects Damage?

The inspector will assess whether the damage presents an immediate safety hazard to the occupants. If an imminent safety risk is identified, owners must promptly address and mitigate such risks. Mitigation measures may encompass restricting occupant access to affected areas, providing support structures, and undertaking emergency repairs. If the damage doesn’t pose an immediate safety risk, the property owner has 120 days to apply for a repair work permit from receiving the inspection report. 

Once the permit is approved, 120 days are granted to complete the necessary repairs. Requests for repair extensions require approval from local building departments. A qualified and licensed contractor must carry out all repair and replacement work in accordance with the Balcony Inspection Law. The licensed contractor who conducted the inspection is not permitted to perform the repair work.

What Consequences Arise for Failure to Comply?

Non-compliance with the Balcony Inspection Law may result in penalties ranging from $100 to $500 per day for buildings that do not meet the balcony inspection requirements. In the event of a civil fine or penalty, the local jurisdiction retains the authority to impose a safety lien on the building. Should a building owner decline to settle the penalties imposed, the local jurisdiction has the option to pursue satisfaction of the lien through foreclosure.

What If You Transform Your Building into a Condominium Building?

For any multifamily building governed by the Balcony Inspection Law, intending to undergo conversion into condominiums and be sold to the public on January 1, 2019, the mandatory inspection must be carried out before the initial closure of escrow for a different interest in the condominium conversion project.

The inspection report and written confirmation from the inspector affirming the completion of any recommended repairs or replacements need to be submitted to the Department of Real Estate, among other entities. Additionally, these details must be outlined in the Public Report issued by the Department of Real Estate for the condominium conversion project.

What About Multi-Family Condominium Buildings in Common Interest Developments?

While the Balcony Inspection Law focuses on inspection obligations for multi-family building owners, it doesn’t extend to common interest developments. To outline the requirements for such developments, Governor Newsom enacted Senate Bill No. 326 into law on August 30, 2019, introducing Civil Code Section 5551 to the Davis Stirling Common Interest Development Act. 

Unlike the Balcony Inspection Law’s six-year interval, inspections for common interest developments occur at least once every nine years. Nevertheless, the initial assessment for buildings with a building permit application submitted on or after January 1, 2020, must occur six years after issuing a certificate of occupancy.

Conclusion

As the January 1, 2025, deadline for meeting balcony inspection requirements approaches, property owners and managers must ensure their structures comply with the necessary standards. Regular inspections and necessary upgrades are essential to guarantee the safety and integrity of balconies.

To enhance fire safety measures, considering the installation of fire resistant vents provided by Vulcan Vents is a crucial decision. By incorporating our advanced and reliable fire-resistant ventilation systems, property owners can not only meet inspection requirements but also prioritize the well-being of residents and safeguard their investments in the long run. 

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