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How To Prepare For SB 326 Balcony Inspection

The California State Legislature recently enacted Senate Bill 326 (SB 326) to improve safety and prevent tragic incidents like the 2015 Berkeley balcony collapse that claimed six lives. This law mandates regular inspections of deck balconies and walkways in certain multi-unit residential buildings. If you own or manage a qualifying building in California, you must comply with the SB 326 requirements before the January 1, 2025 deadline.

The law applies to multi-unit residential buildings that are three stories or more and have deck balconies or walkways elevated six feet or higher above the ground. These buildings must undergo a thorough inspection of all exterior elevated elements (EEE) by a licensed structural engineer or architect every six years. The inspection must evaluate the load-bearing components, connections, and physical condition of the EEE.

Hiring a Qualified Inspector

To initiate the compliance process, you'll need to hire a licensed structural engineer or architect qualified to perform the SB 326 inspection. When interviewing potential inspectors, look for individuals with experience evaluating multi-unit residential buildings, a strong understanding of the SB 326 requirements, the ability to provide a detailed inspection report, and competitive pricing.

Preparing for the Inspection

Once you've secured an inspector, work closely with them to prepare for the site visit. This may involve providing building plans, maintenance records, and other relevant documentation. Additionally, you should take the following preparation steps:

Key Preparation Tasks:

  • Ensure all EEE are accessible for the inspection

  • Notify tenants about the upcoming visit and gain their cooperation

  • Clear any obstructions or debris around the inspection areas

Reviewing the Inspection Report

After the on-site inspection, the inspector will provide you with a detailed report outlining their findings. Carefully review the report and work with the inspector to understand the severity of any issues and the timeline for completing the required work. The report should identify deficiencies or safety concerns, recommend repairs or maintenance, prioritize critical issues that must be fixed by the January 1, 2025 deadline, and provide longer-term maintenance and repair recommendations.

Developing a Repair Plan and Timeline

Based on the inspection report, create a detailed plan and timeline for completing all necessary repairs and maintenance. Prioritize the most critical issues that must be fixed by the January 1, 2025 deadline, obtain bids from qualified contractors to perform the work, schedule the repairs in a logical sequence to minimize disruption to tenants, and budget for the full cost of the repairs, including any unexpected issues.

Communicating with Tenants

Throughout the inspection and repair process, it's crucial to keep your tenants informed and involved. Notify them in advance of the upcoming inspection and any planned repair work, and provide regular updates on the progress and timeline.

Explain the importance of the SB 326 requirements and how the repairs will improve safety, address any tenant concerns or questions, encourage tenants to report any issues or concerns they notice with the EEE, and maintain open communication to ensure a smooth and cooperative process.

Monitoring Ongoing Compliance

Even after the initial SB 326 inspection and repairs are complete, building owners must remain vigilant about ongoing compliance. This includes planning and budgeting for future re-inspections every six years, as well as proactively monitoring the physical condition of the EEE on an ongoing basis.

By following these steps, you can ensure your multi-unit residential building is fully compliant with the SB 326 balcony inspection requirements before the January 1, 2025 deadline. Taking a proactive approach now will save you time, money, and headaches down the road.

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