Questions and Answers about SB 721 and SB 326 – California’s Balcony & Deck Inspection Laws
With the passing and signing of Senate Bills 721 in 2018 and 326 in 2019, there may be several questions about what these new inspection requirements mean for rental property owners, managers and condo homeowner’s associations. These two bills bring a new term to the construction and real estate industry: Exterior Elevated Elements (EEE).
What is an Exterior Elevated Element (EEE)?
An Exterior Elevated Element (EEE) is a structural element of a building– including but not limited to supports, associated waterproofing systems and railings–that has any of the following properties:
- The element extends beyond a building’s exterior walls
- The element is designed for human use
- The element has a walking surface more than 6 feet above ground level
- The element has load-bearing components made with wood or wood-based products
Exterior Elevated Elements may include balconies, decks, porches, stairways, walkways and entry structures.
Why do we need to do inspections on Exterior Elevated Elements (EEE)?
It all comes down to improving safety.
According to the statistics compiled by Consumer Product Safety Commission, structures such as balconies and decks failures have caused thousands of injuries per year.
In 2016, the State of California directed the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) to perform a study in which they determined requirements for periodic post-occupancy inspections to prevent failures of Exterior Elevated Elements.
SB721 and SB326 are the legislation born of those requirements.
Which buildings are affected?
SB721 affects any building in the state of California that has 3+ multi-family dwelling units including triplexes, quadplexes, and larger apartment buildings (including mixed-use properties)
SB326 affects condominiums and other Common Interest Developments.
Who can perform Exterior Elevated Element inspections?
- Licensed Architect
- Licensed Civil or Structural Engineer
- Licensed Contractor (A, B, or C-5) with at least 5 years experience constructing multistory wood frame buildings
- Certified Building Inspector– Local jurisdiction determines the certifications that satisfy this requirement.
- Licensed Architect
- Licensed Structural Engineer
When does my property need to be inspected to comply with SB721 or SB326?
- Existing Apartment Buildings must have their initial EEE inspection by January 1, 2025.
- New buildings that had a building permit application submitted after January 1, 2019 must have their EEE inspection within six years of getting issued a Certificate of Occupancy from the city/county.
- After the initial EEE inspection for both existing and new buildings, all following inspections must be completed by January 1 every six years.
- Existing Homeowner’s Associations must have their initial EEE inspection by January 1, 2025.
- New Condo Associations that had a building permit application submitted after January 1, 2020, must have their initial EEE inspection within nine years of getting issued a Certificate of Occupancy.
- After the initial EEE inspection for both existing Homeowner’s Associations and new condo associations, all following inspections must be completed every nine years in coordination with the reserve study inspection.
Both laws require inspections to be done at regular intervals.
How long does a manager or Homeowner’s Associations have to make repairs after an EEE inspection?
If an element requires a repair but does not pose an urgent or immediate safety issue:
- Apartments (SB721): The building owner must apply for repair permits within 120 days of receiving the inspection report. Once repair permits are approved, the building owner has 120 days to complete the repairs.
- Condos (SB326): Homeowner’s Associations have full control of their repair timeline.
If an element poses an immediate safety issue and requires an emergency repair:
- Apartments (SB721): The inspector is required to send a copy of the inspection report to the property’s local enforcement agency within 15 days.
- Condos (SB326): The inspector is required to send a copy of the inspection report to the property’s local enforcement agency within 15 days. The association is then responsible for immediately taking preventative steps that prevent access to affected EEEs until repairs are performed, inspected and approved by the enforcement agency.
Is there a penalty for not doing repairs to my apartment building?
If the building owner has not started repairs within 180 days of receiving the final inspection report, then the inspector is required to notify the local building code enforcement agency. This notice requires the building owner to make repairs within 30 days. If after 30 days no repairs are made and no extensions are granted, the owner will receive a civil penalty anywhere between $100-$500 per day until the repairs are completed.