Living in an apartment or condominium in California with a balcony is a delightful experience, offering stunning views & a connection to the outdoors. However, concerns over balcony safety have led to significant legislative changes in the state. Two critical pieces of legislation, SB 721 and SB 326, also known as the “California balcony inspection law,” were introduced to address these concerns and improve the safety of balconies in California. In this blog post, we’ll explore what SB 721 and SB 326 entail and why they matter to both property owners and residents.
Why Were SB 326 and SB 721 Introduced?
On June 16, 2015, a heartbreaking tragedy occurred in Berkeley, California. A group of young individuals, consisting of five Irish J-1 visa students and one Irish-American, were gathered on a balcony to celebrate a 21st birthday party. The balcony upon which they stood suddenly collapsed. The consequences were so devastating that six people died and seven others were injured. What should have been a joyous occasion turned into a heart-wrenching disaster.
The investigation followed by this incident uncovered the truth that the property ownership and management had ignored numerous “Red Flags” raised by tenants. These warning signs included reports of mold on the balcony’s surface and noticeable tilting or sinking of the structure. This incident highlighted the urgent requirement for legislation to improve the safety of balconies and other extended elevated elements, with repairs being necessary.
In accordance with the latest regulations and the California balcony inspection law, it is now a requirement for balconies and similar architectural features to include vents. This inclusion of balcony inspection vents facilitates thorough inspections to ensure their structural integrity & safety compliance.
California Balcony Inspection Requirements
The California balcony inspection law has introduced critical requirements that demand strict adherence from property managers and owners. Let’s understand the inspection requirements for both Senate bills one by one.
SB 721: Balcony Inspection Requirements
SB 721 inspection bill was signed as a law by California Governor Jerry Brown on September 17, 2018. This legislation places responsibility on homeowners’ associations to ensure the safety of balconies and other elevated exterior elements.
- Suppose you own a property with exterior elevated elements like balconies, walkways, or stairways in California. In that case, you must hire a licensed structural engineer or architect for SB721 inspection to comply with state regulations. These inspections should be conducted every six years.
- For a multi-family building, you must do the first check within six months of getting the occupancy permit.
- Depending on the condition of the items inspected, building owners will be given a timeframe ranging from 15 to 120 days to address required repairs.
- Tenants must receive written notice of the inspection results within 15 days of completion.
- Property owners must maintain records of inspections, repairs, and other relevant documentation for at least nine years.
SB 326: Balcony Inspection Requirements
SB 326 became law when Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 326 into law on August 30, 2019. This legislation places an additional reporting requirement on property owners to provide transparency to potential buyers and residents.
- Property owners must obtain a certified balcony inspection report every nine years, including details on the balconies’ condition.
- The inspection report must be submitted to the local building department and, upon request, be made available for viewing by residents.
- Property owners must post a copy of the most recent sb326 inspections report in a conspicuous location, visible to all residents and potential buyers.
- The bill mandates the inspection of a “random and statistically significant subset” of EEEs, with a 95 percent confidence level & an error margin of ± 5%.
What Will Happen If the Balcony Fails to Comply with the Inspection Law?
Not following California balcony inspection law can lead to big problems for property owners. These consequences include:
Penalties & Fines
One of the first and most immediate consequences of non-compliance is the imposition of penalties and fines. Property owners who neglect their duty to inspect and maintain their balconies can face substantial financial repercussions. These fines encourage property owners to take the necessary steps to ensure their balconies are safe.
Failure to comply with SB721 inspection or SB326 inspections laws can also lead to legal action. Property owners may face lawsuits if someone is injured or, worse, loses their life due to a balcony’s structural issues resulting from negligence.
Restricted Balcony Use
Balcony safety is vital to local authorities in California. If a balcony doesn’t pass the safety checks, the owners might have to keep people away from the balcony until they repair it. This could make the property less valuable.
Beyond personal consequences, non-compliant balconies pose a broader safety risk to the community. Balconies that aren’t properly inspected and maintained can collapse, causing harm to individuals. This can result in increased scrutiny from local authorities, potentially leading to more stringent regulations and inspections for all properties in the area.
Loss of Insurance Coverage
Insurance companies may require compliance with safety regulations, including balcony inspections, as a condition for coverage. Failure to comply could result in the loss of insurance coverage, leaving the property owner personally responsible for any damages or liabilities. Additionally, It’s not just a matter of following the law; it’s a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.
California’s SB 721 and SB 326 are the two essential pieces of legislation that enhance the safety of multi-family residential buildings, particularly balconies and other common areas. Property owners must adhere to California balcony inspection law to ensure the structural integrity of their buildings, which includes the proper maintenance and safety measures for vents to prevent fire hazards and maintain overall safety.
Vulcan Vents specializes in providing products and services for fire vents, which are critical components for ensuring fire safety in residential and commercial properties. Our balcony inspection vents not only meet the requirements of SB-721 and SB-326 but also undergo thorough testing, including compliance with California Building Code Chapter 7A, ASTM E2886 & E119 standards. Contact us today!