Updated: Mar 1
In 2015, a group of young adults gathered in a Berkeley apartment to celebrate a birthday. What started as a joyous celebration, however, ended in tragedy when the balcony they were standing on collapsed, resulting in the death of five people and the injury of seven others. Sadly, one of the injured died a few months later due to injuries sustained during the collapse. The tragedy prompted an investigation into the cause of the collapse, which revealed that both the construction company and the building’s management company were at fault. The primary cause of the collapse was rot in the load-bearing elements of the balcony, but it was also reported that the renters had complained about moisture buildup prior to the incident, which the management company failed to properly address.
In response to the tragedy balcony collapse, settlements were paid out to the families of the victims and both the construction and management companies were held accountable for their actions. The state of California also took action to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. This led to the creation of SB-721 and SB-326, building standards that came into effect on January 1, 2019. The purpose of these building standards is to ensure that exterior elevated elements and their associated waterproofing elements are in a safe and sound condition and free from hazardous conditions that could put the life, limb, health, property, safety, or welfare of the public or the occupants at risk. The inspection must be performed by a person or business hired by the building owner, and must determine that the exterior elevated elements are in good working order, free from decay or deterioration, and not altered in a way that poses a hazard.
TWO LEGISLATIONS, ONE GOAL: TO KEEP CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS SAFE
On June 16, 2015, a tragedy struck the city of Berkeley, California, when a balcony collapsed during a party, resulting in the death of six young people and the injury of seven others. The investigation of the incident revealed that both the construction company and building management company were at fault, with rot in the load-bearing elements of the balcony as the primary cause. However, the renters had reported moisture buildup prior to the collapse, which was not handled properly by the management company.
This tragedy prompted the state of California to take action to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. The result of this effort was the creation of two bills, SB-721 and SB-326, that came into effect on January 1, 2019. These bills require the inspection of elevated exterior elements, such as balconies, decks, porches, stairways, walkways, and entry structures, to ensure that they are in a generally safe condition, in adequate working order, and free from hazardous conditions caused by factors such as fungus, deterioration, decay, or improper alteration. SB-721 applies to landlords of buildings with three or more multi-family dwelling units, and the first inspection must be conducted by January 1, 2025, and then every six years after. SB-326 applies to condominium associations, with the first inspection also required by January 1, 2025, and then every nine years after. Any building with more than two residential units must comply with the bills, except for those with no elevated exterior elements intended for human occupancy more than six feet above ground level or those where the structural support or stability of the exterior elevated elements does not rely on wood or wood-based products in whole or in substantial part.
The inspection requires the evaluation of at least 15 percent of each type of exterior elevated element. For example, if a building has more than one type of balcony, 15 percent of each type of balcony must be evaluated. The inspection process must be performed by either a licensed architect, civil or structural engineer, building contractor with at least five years of experience in constructing multi-story wood-frame buildings, or an individual certified as a building inspector or building official from a recognized state, national, or international association. The main goal of these two bills is to ensure that California residents are protected from potential hazards that may arise from elevated exterior elements. By mandating regular inspections and enforcing strict standards for inspectors, the state is taking a step towards creating a safer and more secure environment for everyone.
Apartment owners and homeowners can also have their properties regularly inspected for water damage or leaks. Routine inspections of balcony, walkway, deck, stairways, will help prevent future issues or help identify them quickly. A systematic and preventative approach like what was designed in sb326 and sb721 will save money and diminish costly repairs. Apartment owners, tenants, and homeowners can sleep better at night, not worrying if a silent monster is creeping in the walls and eaves at night.
Talk to the California professional engineering firm to find out more at As a property owner/Manager in Los Angeles, it is essential to be aware of California Senate Bills 326 and sb721, also known as the "Balcony Inspection Laws." These laws require mandatory safety inspections and repair of any damaged exterior elevated elements, including balconies, decks, stairs, and catwalks after Berkley balcony collapse. Our company has taken the initiative to educate our clients and the public about the difference between inspection sb721 vs 326 and repair requirements of these new laws through.
By considering these factors, you can choose a contractor that meets your specific needs and expectations, and helps ensure that your balcony repair work is completed safely and to a high standard of quality.