Oct 22, 2022
California Senate Bill 721 Deadline
Homeowner Associations (HOAs) are directly affected by California Senate Bill 721 (SB721) and Senate Bill 326 (SB326), which were passed in 2018 and 2019. Both laws have a compliance deadline of Jan. 1, 2025, for safety inspections for exterior elevated elements (EEEs) and multifamily balconies. However, these inspections have been considered of low importance over the last few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For HOAs, it is time to get to work!
SB721 and SB326 mandate the visual inspection of a minimum percentage of EEEs in a complex. This requirement creates a problem for balconies clad or wrapped in stucco and siding. Wood isn't easily visible because it is hidden under a veneer. The laws say visual inspections on load-bearing parts can be done by the least invasive or non-destructive test method possible, but that can mean something slightly different for each building development. Let's look at some options.
Visual inspection is the first place to start. This option is for unexposed lumber areas, combined materials, and railings.
Infrared thermography is the second place to go, especially when wooden areas are unexposed. It isn't an effective diagnosing tool if wooden supports are covered. A borescope, an industrial endoscopic camera, may be necessary for compliance with the laws. That would require drilling a hole under a covered soffit and inserting the camera into the desired inspection area. Once the test is complete, the gap is filled in. If a borescope can't identify stains on wood, another inspection method will be expected to meet state laws.
Install removable and operable soffit vents—the vent allows a borescope to more easily and completely inspect hidden building spaces, and the vent allows water to evaporate and not puddle.
Destructive testing is what it sounds like. It means digging into the concealed wood framing. Repairs to a structure follow this inspection method. This test is the most expensive of all options.
When performing any safety inspections, only a few units must be tested yearly to meet compliance. However, the problem with SB721 and SB326 is how to clearly determine what those percentages mean and what number(s) they represent. For example, SB721, a beginning inspection, calls for a 15 percent sample of each type of EEE in an apartment complex to be inspected. Six years later, for round two, another sample of 15 percent must be randomly selected for testing. The following unclear example is for SB326. It applies directly to condos. The bill requires a "statistically significant sample" with 95 percent confidence, give or take 5 percent. What does all that mean exactly? Lots of HOAs would like to know.
Call an exterior elevated element contractor, balcony inspection company, or a structural engineering firm to sort it out. Get to know how these laws apply to apartments, condos, and all other multifamily dwellings. It is better than paying a steep fine for non-compliance in 2025.
California Senate Bills Have an Approaching Deadline—HOAs Don't Delay