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Nuts and Bolts of California Senate Bill 721 and Senate Bill 326

Omid Ghanadiof

Oct 4, 2022

SB721 and SB 326 California Balcony inspection law

Nuts and Bolts of California Senate Bill 721 and Senate Bill 326

The safety inspection rules for California Senate Bill 721 (SB721) and Senate Bill 326 (SB326) are explained in this blog post. These bills were designed to regulate and mandate regular safety inspections for apartments, condos, and adequately by SB721 (2018).

Under provisions set out by SB 721 and SB326 exterior elevated elements (EEEs) require regular safety inspections to prevent structural failures leading to death and injuries. EEEs are defined as decks, balconies, stairs, walkways, and porches. In addition to other laws, these two bills were enacted after the 2015 Berkeley Balcony Collapse, where six people died and seven were injured from a collapsed exterior structure. As a result, local and state agencies authorized moves to ensure that lumber-framed and load-bearing structures are now routinely inspected for structural soundness.

California SB721 requires that EEEs in all buildings with three or more units (i.e., multi-family) be inspected. SB721 fell short when it excluded common interest developments such as buildings and complexes, but SB326 closed the gap. Now, inspections are mandated for those structures as well.

Who Can Be Hired for Inspections?

Under SB721, only four types of professionals can perform safety inspections for apartments. Those include licensed architects, civil or structural engineers, licensed contractors (minimum of five years experience with multistory wood-framed buildings), and certified building inspectors. SB326 says only a licensed architect or structural engineer may perform safety inspections on condos.

What Sample Size is Required?

When licensed professionals examine EEEs, they study load-bearing materials and waterproofing systems and evaluate the projected lifespan and future performance. For SB721, 15 percent of all types of EEEs must be part of a regular inspection schedule about every six years. Alternatively, SB326 requires a “random statistically significant sample” of 95 percent confidence, give or take five percent, about every six to nine years. This requirement may require a more straightforward explanation to homeowner associations and building owners not well versed in statistical analysis. The first safety inspections for these laws are set for Jan. 1, 2025.

What Penalties Can Be Imposed?

Penalties exist for not completing safety inspections. SB721 SB326 doesn’t list specific penalties, allowing local jurisdictions to set their own civil penalties and procedures. Local code enforcement agencies are also entitled to collect fines defined by city, county, and state laws. Portions of both statutes fall under the Davis-Stirling Act, which regulates the creation and operation of homeowner associations (HOAs). The penalty deals with not incorporating inspection reports into a reserve study.

An inspector has 15 days to submit a written safety report to an HOA or another type of building owner. A copy of the report is also sent to local code enforcement agencies. Once all that process is complete, the owners have 120 days to complete repairs. If owners don’t comply by 180 days after the report, penalties will start to accrue. Depending on local laws, that can be anywhere from $100-$500.

It is wise for HOAs and other building owners to ask for help to understand the new laws if they have remaining questions after reviewing the material above. Licensed architects and structural engineers are the best resources to seek advice under SB721 and SB326. California inspection laws are strictly enforced.

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