In recent years, California has implemented important deck repair laws to address the safety and stability of balconies, walkways, and decks in residential buildings. Senate Bill 326 (SB 326) and Senate Bill 721 (SB 721) have been introduced to prevent balcony and deck collapses, particularly in multi-unit residential structures. These laws outline crucial requirements for inspections, repairs, and maintenance.
This article serves as a comprehensive guide, shedding light on the key provisions of SB 326 and SB 721 and providing property owners with an understanding of their responsibilities to ensure compliance, avoid penalties, and safeguard the well-being of residents.
Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects property owners with reliable general contractors, we get inquiries all the time about construction laws from property owners – read below to learn more about the balcony and deck repair laws in California known as SB326 and SB721.
Who Is Affected By SB326 & SB721 and When?
Senate Bill 326 affects owners of condos in California that have elevated balconies or decks. This deck repair law requires these owners to ensure the inspection of exterior elevated elements, such as balconies and decks, by a licensed professional engineer or architect. The inspection aims to identify any visible conditions that may create a substantial risk of harm to residents.
The initial inspection must be completed by January 1, 2025, and subsequent inspections are required at least once every nine years.
Senate Bill 721 affects owners and operators of multifamily residential buildings in California that have balconies, decks, and other elevated exterior elements. The law requires these individuals to ensure the inspection of such elements for the purpose of identifying potential hazards.
The inspection must be conducted by a qualified architect, structural engineer, or contractor, and it must be completed by January 1, 2025. Subsequent inspections are required at least once every six years.
What Is SB 326 & What Are Its Requirements?
Senate Bill 326 (SB 326) is a California law passed in 2019 that focuses on ensuring the stability and safety of balconies, walkways, and decks in condominium units and other buildings. The law aims to prevent future deck and balcony collapses, particularly in multi-unit residential buildings.
Here are the key requirements of SB 326:
- Inspections – SB 326 mandates that a 95% random, statistically significant sample of the exterior elevated elements (EEEs) in the building must be inspected. The inspections should assess the current physical condition of the load-bearing components and project their life span.
- Licensed architect or engineer – Inspections under SB 326 must be conducted by a licensed architect or engineer.
- Inspection deadline – The first balcony inspection under SB 326 must take place by January 1, 2025.
- Deck repair requirements – If an inspection reveals that any exterior elevated element requires repair, those repairs must be carried out. The severity of the repairs determines the timeline for completion.
- Fees for non-compliance – Local building departments have the authority to assess fees for facilities that fail to comply with the deck inspection requirements of SB 326.
- Inspection Reports – The inspection report generated as a result of SB 326 inspections must include specific information. This includes the identification of all building elements inspected, the current physical condition of the inspected components, an evaluation of whether any elements pose a danger to residents’ health or safety, the projected service life of the inspected elements, and any repairs needed.
What Is SB 721 & What Are Its Requirements?
Senate Bill 721 is a California law that addresses the inspection and maintenance of balconies and other elevated exterior elements in multifamily residential buildings.
Here are the key requirements of SB 721:
- Inspections – SB 721 mandates that all balconies, decks, and other elevated exterior elements in buildings with three or more multifamily dwelling units undergo periodic inspections. The primary focus is on the structural integrity and waterproofing of these elements.
- Inspection deadline: – The law requires the first inspection to be completed by January 1, 2025, or earlier if the building obtains a building permit for additions, alterations, or improvements to the exterior elements.
- Qualified inspectors -Inspections under SB 721 must be conducted by a qualified inspector, typically a licensed structural engineer or architect.
- Inspection criteria: The law specifies that inspections should consider factors such as decay, deterioration, water damage, proper anchorage, and structural cracks.
- Reporting and notice requirements – Once the inspections are complete, the inspector must provide a written report to the property owner or homeowners association (HOA). The report should include the findings, recommendations for repairs or corrections, and a timetable for completing the recommended actions. Additionally, the law requires the property owner or HOA to distribute a copy of the inspection report to all tenants or occupants within 15 days of receiving the report.
- Repairs and corrections – If the inspection report identifies any issues or deficiencies, the property owner or HOA is responsible for undertaking necessary repairs or corrections within a reasonable timeframe. The specific timeline depends on the severity of the issues identified.
What Happens in a Balcony/Deck Inspection?
During a balcony/deck inspection, the qualified professional conducting the inspection will assess the condition and structural integrity of the balcony or deck to ensure it is safe for use. Here are some common elements that may be included in a typical balcony/deck inspection:
- Visual inspection – The inspector will visually examine the balcony or deck, looking for signs of deterioration, damage, or structural issues. This may include checking for cracks, rot, rust, loose connections, or signs of water damage.
- Load-bearing capacity – The inspector will evaluate the load-bearing capacity of the balcony or deck to ensure it can safely support the intended weight. This may involve examining the construction materials, fasteners, and support structure.
- Safety features – The inspector will check for the presence and functionality of safety features such as handrails, guardrails, and barriers.
- Drainage and waterproofing – If applicable, the inspector may assess the drainage system and waterproofing measures in place to prevent water damage and deterioration.
- Accessibility and code compliance – The inspector may also review compliance with accessibility requirements and local building codes to ensure the balcony or deck meets the necessary standards.
Hiring General Contractors for Balcony/Deck Repairs
- Expert knowledge – General contractors are familiar with the specific regulations and guidelines that need to be followed during inspections. Their expertise allows them to assess the condition of balconies and decks, identify potential issues, and recommend the necessary repairs or modifications to ensure compliance.
- Inspection readiness assessment – A general contractor can help you understand how your property aligns with the requirements set forth by the bills and provide guidance on the necessary improvements.
- Balcony repair and renovation services – If any repairs or renovations are needed to bring your balconies and decks up to code, a general contractor can handle the entire process.
- Code compliance – General contractors are well-versed in building codes and regulations. They will ensure that all repairs and modifications made to your balconies and decks meet the required standards.
- Permit assistance – In some cases, permits may be required for the repairs or renovations related to SB 326 and SB 721. A general contractor can help navigate the permit application process, ensuring that all necessary documentation is prepared and submitted correctly.
- Documentation and record-keeping: A general contractor can assist with documenting the repairs and renovations performed on your balconies and decks. This documentation can be crucial during inspections as it provides evidence of compliance with the bills.
- Pre-inspection preparation – Prior to the scheduled inspection, a general contractor can conduct a comprehensive review of the repaired or renovated balconies and decks. They will ensure that everything is in order, address any last-minute concerns, and make any necessary adjustments to ensure a successful inspection.
Looking for a general contractor for your balcony or deck? Contact GreatBuildz to be matched with the perfect pre-vetted contractor in the Los Angeles and Southern California areas. For more information, contact us today at (818.317.3567) or visit our website.