Sadly, several new construction companies have emerged (and continue to emerge) in recent months. Some have been reported to be very unscrupulous. Be aware when engaging with construction companies offering balcony inspections.
We recommend you read our article "Tips for Hiring a Contractor" before signing any contracts.
On June 16, 2015, shortly after midnight, six people (mostly students) died, and seven others were injured after a balcony on which they were standing collapsed. The group was celebrating a 21st birthday party in Berkeley, California. The balcony was on the 5th floor of an apartment building.
Overwhelming evidence points to dry rot causing the collapse. The likeliest cause is that the balcony of the building was not constructed properly, leading to dry rot and the balcony becoming structurally compromised.
We prioritize your tenants' safety and your property's longevity. Our certified inspectors thoroughly evaluate balconies for moisture intrusion, rot damage, and structural issues using advanced tools like thermal imaging. Rest assured, our commitment is to provide a detailed inspection to enhance your peace of mind and your tenants' well-being.
Following the inspection, we prioritize your clarity and peace of mind. Our commitment involves providing a comprehensive report that not only meets but exceeds SB-721 requirements, ensuring full compliance. This report, enriched with color photographs and detailed explanations, aims to enhance your understanding of the findings. We're open to scheduling a conference call or Zoom meeting to review the report with all relevant parties.
Emphasizing our exclusive focus on inspection, we do not undertake repair work. This ensures unbiased assessments without any intent to promote or sell construction services. Your trust in the transparency of our services is paramount to us.
We are an Inspection-ONLY Company.
Frequently, balconies are covered with stucco on the underside and limiting the inspection to only the visible portions of the structure. However, when the inspector sees something of concern (large cracks or settlement), or as an option to you, we can install stainless steel inspection vents on the underside of the balconies.
These vents serve two purposes. One is to increase ventilation to the structure to keep things dry. The other is for periodic inspection.
In this video, Tony Escamilla breaks down the requirements of the upcoming required balcony inspections. He discusses the history, what buildings need an inspection, what needs to be inspected, by when the report, and follow-up.
California State Balcony Inspection Law
SB 721 (Chapter 445, Stats. 2018) was signed by Governor Brown in response to the 2015 Berkeley balcony collapse. While some local governments already impose a local inspection program, this California law requires the inspection of specific balconies throughout the State of California. Here's what you need to know:
What Buildings Must be Inspected?
Buildings with three or more units that have:
Buildings proposed for conversion to condominiums to be sold to the public after January 1, 2019, must be inspected before the first close of escrow.
When Must the Buildings be Inspected?
The balconies, decks, porches, stairways, walkways, and entries described above must be inspected by January 1, 2025, with certain exceptions, and require subsequent inspections every six years.
The inspection of buildings for which a building permit application has been
submitted on or after January 1, 2019, shall occur no later than six years following the issuance of a certificate of occupancy from the local jurisdiction and shall otherwise comply with the provisions of this law.
If the property was inspected within three years before January 1, 2019, by an
inspector as described in the law, and a report of that inspector was issued stating that the exterior elevated elements and associated waterproofing elements are in proper working condition and do not pose a threat to the health and safety of the public, no new inspection shall be required until January 1, 2025.
Who Can Perform the Inspections?
What Must the Inspection Cover?
The inspection required by this law must, at a minimum, include:
The inspection inspector shall produce initial and final reports indicating that any required repairs have been completed.
A written report of the evaluation stamped or signed by the inspector is presented to the owner of the building or the owner’s designated agent within 45 days of inspection completion.
The report shall include photographs, test results, and a narrative sufficient to establish a baseline of the condition of the components inspected that can be compared to the results of subsequent inspections. In addition to the evaluation required by this section, the report shall advise which, if any, elevated exterior elements pose an immediate threat to the safety of the occupants and whether preventing occupant access or conducting emergency repairs, including shoring, are necessary.
A copy of the inspection report must be presented to the building owner within 45 days of the inspection completion. The law requires that if the inspection reveals conditions that pose an immediate hazard to the safety of the occupants, the inspection report be delivered to the building owner within 15 days, and emergency repairs be undertaken, as specified, with notice given to the local enforcement agency.
Who Keeps the Report?
Copies of all inspection reports shall be maintained in the building owner’s permanent records for under two inspection cycles. They shall be disclosed and delivered to the buyer at any subsequent building sale.
What if Repairs are Required?
Immediate Threat – An exterior elevated element that the inspector advises poses an immediate threat to the safety of the occupants or finds preventing occupant access or emergency repairs, including shoring or both, are necessary, shall be considered an emergency condition, and the owner of the building shall perform required preventive measures immediately.
Immediately preventing occupant access to the exterior elevated element until emergency repairs can be completed constitutes compliance with this paragraph. Repairs of emergency conditions shall comply with the requirements of the law, be inspected by the inspector, and be reported to the local enforcement agency.
No Immediate Threat – The owner of the building that requires corrective work to an exterior elevated element that, in the opinion of the inspector, does not pose an immediate threat to the safety of the occupants, shall apply for a permit within 120 days of receipt of the inspection report. Once the permit is approved, the owner of the building shall have 120 days to make the repairs unless an extension of time is granted by the local enforcement agency.
If the owner of the building does not comply with the repair requirements within 180 days, the inspector shall notify the local enforcement agency and the owner of the building. If, within 30 days of the date of the notice, the repairs are not completed, the owner of the building shall be assessed a civil penalty based on a fee of not less than $100 or more than $500 per day until the repairs are completed, unless an extension of time is granted by the local enforcement agency. A building safety lien may be recorded against the property if a civil penalty is assessed.
Can a Local Government Pass a More Stringent Law?
Yes. The State law provides that the governing body of any city, county, or city and county may enact ordinances or laws imposing requirements greater than those imposed by this law.