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what is the difference between sb721 and sb326

It's likely that if you own or oversee a multi-family building in California, you are familiar with Senate Bills 721 and 326. These two pieces of legislation are meant to increase the security of balconies and high constructions. They differ noticeably from one another despite sharing the same goal. This blog post will explore the differences between SB 721 and SB 326 and provide you the knowledge you need to make sure you are in compliance with both rules.

What is Senate Bill 721?

SB 721, also known as the Balcony Inspection Bill, was signed into law in 2018 in response to a deadly balcony collapse in Berkeley, California, that claimed the lives of six college students. The bill requires the inspection of all exterior elevated elements and their associated waterproofing elements in multi-family buildings with three or more units, including balconies, decks, and walkways. The law applies to all buildings constructed before January 1, 2019.

Under SB 721, building owners or property managers must have all exterior elevated elements inspected by a licensed professional every six years. The inspection must include a visual examination of the exterior elevated elements, as well as any accessible areas of the associated waterproofing elements. The inspector must also test the waterproofing system to determine whether it is functioning properly and is sufficient to prevent moisture intrusion.

If any deficiencies are found during the inspection, the building owner or property manager must promptly correct the issue and provide a report to the local building department detailing the findings and actions taken to address any deficiencies.

SB 326 was signed into law in 2019 and requires the inspection of elevated walking surfaces, including balconies, decks, and walkways, in multi-family buildings with three or more units. The law applies to all buildings constructed before January 1, 2025.

Under SB 326, building owners or property managers must have all elevated walking surfaces inspected by a licensed professional at least once every nine years. The inspection must evaluate the structural integrity of the elevated walking surfaces and may include a load test to test the strength and stability of the structure.

If any deficiencies are found during the inspection, the building owner or property manager must promptly correct the issue and file a report with the local building department detailing the findings and actions taken to address any deficiencies.

What are the key differences between SB 721 and SB 326?

While both SB 721 and SB 326 aim to improve the safety of balconies and elevated structures in multi-family buildings, there are some key differences between the two laws. Here are a few of the most important differences to keep in mind:

1. Scope of inspection: SB 721 requires the inspection of all exterior elevated elements and their associated waterproofing elements, while SB 326 requires the inspection of elevated walking surfaces only.

2. Frequency of inspection: Under SB 721, inspections must be conducted every six years, while under SB 326, inspections must be conducted at least once every nine years.

3. Timing: SB 721 applies to all buildings constructed before January 1, 2019, while SB 326 applies to all buildings constructed before January 1, 2025.

4. Load testing: While load testing may be performed under both laws, it is explicitly mentioned in SB 326 as a potential component of the inspection.

5. Reporting requirements: Both laws require building owners or property managers to file a report with the local building department detailing any deficiencies found during the inspection and the actions taken to address them.


Why are these laws important?

Balcony collapses and other structural failures in multi-family buildings can have devastating consequences, including injury and loss of life. By requiring regular inspections of balconies and elevated structures, SB 721 and SB 326 help ensure the safety of residents and guests and prevent accidents from occurring. These laws are important because they hold building owners and property managers responsible for maintaining the safety of their structures and ensuring that they are in compliance with the regulations. By mandating regular inspections, these laws help to identify any potential safety hazards before they become major problems. This not only protects residents and guests but also helps building owners avoid costly repairs or lawsuits resulting from accidents or injuries. Ultimately, the goal of SB 721 and SB 326 is to prevent tragedies like the balcony collapse in Berkeley and ensure that all multi-family buildings in California are safe and secure for residents and visitors alike.

Omid Ghanadiof is a co-founder of EEEadvisor Engineering, a specialized engineering inspection firm active located in Southern California. EEEadvisor Engineering assists rental property owners and homeowners associations (HOAs) with compliance with state mandated balcony inspections per Senate Bills 721 and 326. For more information, contact Mr. Ghanadiof at (805) 312-8513 or info@eeeadvisor.com


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