In 2018, a California bill was signed into law that received relatively little fanfare in the media. Senate Bill 721 (SB 721) adds new language to California’s building standards that requires the owners of apartment buildings with three or more units to have their buildings’ balconies and decks regularly inspected. The first inspection, for just about every apartment building in California, is required to be completed by January 1, 2025, and every six years thereafter.
When the bill was passed back in 2018, the January 1, 2025 deadline for the inspections seemed way off in the future, but that date is now rapidly approaching, and there is no reason to wait until the last minute to have the inspections completed.
If you are the owner of an apartment building in Orange County or Los Angeles, you would be wise to start the balcony inspection process now. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to find someone who can complete the inspections prior to the deadline.
DTS: Your Source for Apartment Balcony Inspections in Orange County and Los Angeles
At DTS, we are the only resource that apartment building owners Orange County and Los Angeles need to bring their buildings into compliance with SB 721!
When you work with DTS, we will set you up with qualified professionals who can complete the necessary inspections, reports, and if needed, repairs of your apartment building’s balconies. Our team is made up of architects, engineers, and contractors, all of whom are licensed in the State of California and have many years of experience.
As a company that specializes in helping small businesses stay in compliance with city, county, and state regulations, DTS is uniquely qualified to handle everything that is required to ensure your apartment building is in full compliance with SB 721. We will work with you to make sure all inspections, reports, and repairs are completed in a timely manner so you can avoid fines and ensure that your apartment building’s balconies are safe for your tenants.
A Note from DTS Founder, Jim Diaz
“When I founded DTS, I did so to be a helpful resource for companies and property owners who needed help complying with various local, state, and federal regulations. Most small business owners and property owners don’t have the time or expertise to research every regulation that applies to them and figure out how to be in compliance. That’s where DTS steps in.
My team has worked hard to understand what SB 721 requires of apartment building owners and has put together resources to help them meet those requirements.
If you own an apartment building in Orange County or Los Angeles with three or more units, I highly encourage you to contact us soon to get the inspection process started so your building will be in compliance well in advance of the January 2025 deadline. We anticipate that most owners will wait until the 4th quarter of 2024 to begin inquiring about the required inspections. By then, it may be difficult to find someone who is available to take on the task before the deadline, or they could be charged high “rush fees” to get the inspections done on time and avoid fines.
While most local jurisdictions have not yet published their fine structure for building owners who don’t complete their inspections before the deadline, the fines will likely be substantial. Cities and counties may see SB 721 as a way to make some easy money and won’t hesitate to levy steep fines starting January 2, 2025. An apartment building owner in Orange County or Los Angeles could be fined several hundred dollars, per day, per balcony until the inspections are completed!
Contact us at DTS today to learn more about how we can help. We offer competitive rates for balcony inspections in Orange County and Los Angeles that meet all of SB 721’s guidelines.”
Frequently Asked Questions About SB 721: California’s Apartment Balcony Inspection Bill
Just like any other bill passed by the California State Legislature, SB 721 is quite detailed. Even if you’ve read the entire bill, you may still have some questions about what it means for you and your apartment complex. Below are some frequently asked questions, as well as some answers, to help you get a handle on what the bill requires of California apartment building owners:
Why Are Apartment Balcony Inspections Required in California?
In June 2015, six people were killed and seven people were injured when an apartment deck collapsed in downtown Berkeley at the Library Gardens Apartments. The subsequent accident investigation revealed that the deck failed due the structural joists being severely rotted. Deferred maintenance on the part of the apartment building’s property manager—even though indications of water damage were present near the deck—was determined to be the root cause of the deck’s failure.
In response to this tragic incident, the California Legislature introduced Senate Bill 721 (SB 721) in February 2017. This bill, commonly known as the “Balcony Inspection Bill,” or simply the “Balcony Bill,” requires that all California residential buildings with three or more units have their exterior elevated elements inspected regularly. Inspections are required to be completed by January 1, 2025 (with very few exceptions). SB 721 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 17, 2018.
What Types of Structures Fall Under SB 721?
According to SB 721, inspections need to be completed on all of an apartment complex’s “exterior elevated elements.” An exterior elevated element can refer to the following structures:
- Entry Structures
If any of these types of structures “…extend beyond exterior walls of the building and… have a walking surface that is elevated more than six feet above ground level, are designed for human occupancy or use, and rely in whole or in substantial part on wood or wood-based products for structural support stability,” they are considered exterior elevated elements and fit within the scope of the ordinance.
If My Building in Orange County or Los Angeles is New, Do I Still Need a Balcony Inspection?
For apartment building owners that submitted their building permit on or after January 1, 2019, the inspection doesn’t need to be conducted until six years after a certificate of occupancy was issued. So, if your building was issued its certificate of occupancy on June 1, 2021, you would have until June 1, 2027 to have your first balcony inspection completed.
What Qualifications Does Someone Need to Complete a Valid Balcony Inspection?
Balcony inspections that satisfy the requirements of SB 721 must be completed by a licensed architect, a licensed civil or structural engineer, or a building contractor who holds an “A,” “B,” or “C-5” license from the Contractors’ State License Board (CSLB) and has at least five years of experience. The inspection could also be performed by a certified building inspector as long as he or she isn’t employed by the jurisdiction in which the building is located.
How Much Do Apartment Balcony Inspections in Orange County and Los Angeles Cost?
The cost of an apartment balcony inspection that will put your complex in compliance with SB 721 varies based on several factors, such as the number of exterior elevated elements in your apartment building and how easily they can be accessed. When you contact DTS to inquire about an apartment balcony inspection, we will ask you a few questions, and based on your answers, we can give you a good estimate on the cost over the phone.
When Should I Have My Orange County or Los Angeles Apartment Building’s Balconies and Decks Inspected?
Even though the deadline to have the balcony inspections completed in California is not until January 1, 2025, you may want to have the inspections done well in advance of that date. As the January 2025 deadline gets closer, many apartment building owners and managers will be scrambling to get their inspections done, and it may be difficult to find a qualified inspector who has availability at the end of 2024.
Schedule your apartment balcony inspection now, and gain the peace of mind knowing that your building is in compliance with SB 721.
What Is the Fine for Not Complying with SB 721?
The California bill does not specify penalties for not having the inspections done by the January 1, 2025 deadline. But since the bill is a state-mandated local program, local jurisdictions (either the city or county) have the freedom to set their own fines for non-compliance. You can expect these fines to be steep and that they will to be levied on each balcony, deck, elevated walkway, etc. that is not inspected by the deadline. The fines may even be levied for every day that the inspections are not completed past the January 1, 2025 deadline.
Non-compliance with SB 721 can easily bankrupt an apartment complex owner in a very short amount of time. Don’t let that be you. Get your balcony inspections done well in advance of the January 1, 2025 deadline and avoid costly fines.
What Should a Balcony Inspector Look for, According to SB 721?
At minimum, your inspection must also include an assessment of the “load-bearing components and associated waterproofing elements” of all applicable exterior elevated elements. The assessment must address their current condition, expected future performance, and recommendations for any further inspection the inspector deems necessary. It should also identify any exterior elevated element that “…constitute[s] a threat to the health or safety of the occupants.”
Following the inspection, a written evaluation must be presented to the building owner or manager within 45 days. Even if no damage was found in the inspection, the report can serve as a baseline for future inspections.
What Should a Balcony Inspection Report Include?
According to SB 721, a thorough balcony inspection report needs to include “…photographs, any test results, and narrative sufficient to establish a baseline of the condition of the components inspected that can be compared to the results of subsequent inspections.”
The reports must also include recommendations for any needed repairs and advise the property owner of any exterior elevated elements that should be immediately restricted from use due to a safety threat. The final report needs to be signed or stamped by a qualified inspector.
What Happens If Damage to the Balconies Is Found During the Inspection?
If any of the exterior elevated elements are found to have damage, the balcony inspector is required to submit the report to the local enforcement agency (city or county) within 15 days of the report’s completion.
It is then the sole responsibility of the of the building’s owner to make the needed repairs. Permits from the local jurisdiction must be obtained, and repairs must be completed by a licensed contractor. For balconies that are determined to be an “emergency condition” because they pose an “immediate threat” to the safety of the building’s occupants, access to those balconies must be restricted and repairs must be completed “immediately.” The bill doesn’t specify an exact timeframe for the completion of repairs needed to remedy an emergency condition, but local jurisdictions will likely set a deadline that you will be required to meet, or else you will be subject to fines.
For corrective work that is not considered by the balcony inspector to pose an immediate threat to occupants, the building owner has 120 days to apply for a permit, and an additional 120 days after the permit is granted to make the repairs (although time extensions may be granted at the discretion of local authorities).
If non-emergency repairs are not completed on time, steep fines will be levied by local authorities. These fines are outlined in SB 721 and will be between $100 and $500 per day until the repairs are completed.
What If an Apartment Building Will Be Sold Prior to January 1, 2025?
Any apartment building that is sold with the intention of being converted to condominiums must have its balconies inspected and repaired (if necessary) in accordance with SB 721 prior to the close of escrow.
How Do I Find a Qualified Inspector for Apartment Building Balconies in Orange County and Los Angeles?
Finding someone who is technically qualified to perform balcony inspections is simple. However, finding someone who is willing to do them (and complete the required report) is another thing.
At DTS, we have put together a team of qualified individuals (architects, engineers, and contractors) who will perform a thorough inspection of your apartment building’s exterior elevated elements and make honest recommendations about any needed repairs. Their ensuing report will meet the guidelines outlined in SB 721—providing a detailed assessment of the condition of your apartment building’s balconies, decks, elevated walkways, exterior staircases, and entry structures.
If repairs are needed, DTS can also connect you with a qualified contractor who will apply for the necessary permits and complete the repairs in a timely manner. It should be noted that if a contractor does your inspection, that same contractor cannot be the one to complete the repairs, per SB 721.
Having the needed repairs done in timely manner is vital, since there is a strict timeframe for their completion, and steep fines will be levied if that timeframe is not met.
What If I Have Additional Questions about Apartment Balcony Inspections or SB 721?
At DTS, we are always happy to get on the phone and talk with you about how we can help you stay in compliance with state and local laws, such as SB 721, and answer any questions you may have. The call is always free. Contact us today. During your call, we can also give you a quote on the cost of having your apartment building’s balconies inspected by one of the professionals on our team.