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What is SB 721? Your In-Depth Guide to California's Balcony Inspection Law

Updated: May 20

Alright, California property owners and managers, let's dive deeper into the complexities of SB 721.  We'll unpack the specifics of this law, clarify the deadlines, and explain how it impacts your multi-family properties. Think of this as your "SB 721 Survival Guide"!


The Story Behind SB 721

Enacted in 2018, Senate Bill 721 (aka the Balcony Inspection Law) was a direct response to a devastating balcony collapse in Berkeley that claimed the lives of six young people.  This tragedy highlighted a critical gap in building safety regulations, prompting California lawmakers to take action.


The Scope of SB 721: What Needs to Be Inspected?

SB 721 mandates regular inspections of "exterior elevated elements" (EEEs) in multi-family buildings with three or more units.  But what exactly falls under the EEE umbrella?

  • Balconies:  This is the most obvious, but it includes all types of balconies – wood, concrete, steel, or composite.

  • Decks:  Whether attached to a unit or part of a common area, decks over six feet above ground level need inspection.

  • Walkways and Stairways:  Elevated walkways connecting buildings or leading to balconies, as well as exterior stairs, are included.

  • Guardrails and Railings:  The structural integrity of these safety features is crucial, and inspectors will check for loose connections, corrosion, and proper height.

  • Associated Waterproofing Elements: Flashing, membranes, sealants – anything designed to keep water out of the structure and prevent damage.


The Inspection Timeline: Don't Miss Your Deadline

The clock is ticking! Here's the timeline you need to know:

  • Initial Inspection Deadline:  For most buildings, the first inspection was due by January 1, 2025. If you haven't scheduled yours yet, it's crucial to act fast.

  • Subsequent Inspections:

  • Wood-Frame Buildings:  Inspections are required every six years after the initial inspection.

  • Other Construction Types: Inspections are required every nine years after the initial inspection.

  • Local Requirements: Some cities or counties may have even stricter regulations, so it's important to check your local ordinances as well.


Choosing Your Inspector: Expertise Matters

SB 721 is very specific about who can conduct these inspections:

  • Licensed Architects or Structural Engineers

  • Licensed General Contractors with specific experience in this type of work

  • Certified Building Inspectors or Building Officials

Don't cut corners! Hire a qualified professional with experience in California balcony inspections and a reputation for thoroughness.  Ask for references and make sure they can provide you with a detailed report outlining any issues found and recommended repairs.


The Road to Compliance

Once the inspection is complete, address any identified problems promptly.  Develop a plan for regular maintenance to prevent future issues.  Partner with a reputable balcony repair specialist if needed.  Remember, ongoing compliance with SB 721 is about protecting your residents, your property, and your peace of mind.


Need Help Navigating SB 721? EEEAdvisor is Here for You

We specialize in balcony inspections for multi-family buildings in California. Our experienced team understands the complexities of SB 721, and we're committed to providing you with the highest quality service and expertise.

Contact us today for a free consultation and quote. Let us help you make your balconies safe, compliant, and worry-free.

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