You may have heard people call California’s SB 721 the “Apartment Balcony Law.” Since SB 721 requires regular inspections of the “exterior elevated elements” of “buildings with 3 or more multifamily dwelling units”, which is a mouthful, many people have decided to simplify things and just call the legislation the “Apartment Balcony Law.” However, this name can be a bit misleading.
Not Just Balconies, and Not Just Apartment Buildings
First of all, it’s not just balconies that need to be inspected every six years. According to the law, which was passed in 2018 (but doesn’t start being enforced until 2025), it’s specifically the building’s “exterior elevated elements” that need to be looked over by a qualified inspector. While exterior elevated elements include balconies, these aren’t the only structures that fall under new the law. The term “exterior elevated elements” also encompasses decks, exterior staircases, porches, entry structures, and elevated walkways. Basically, any exterior surface that someone would stand or walk on and that extends from the exterior wall of the building and is at least six feet above the ground needs to be inspected and included in the ensuing inspector’s report.
In addition, it’s not just the surfaces of these structures that need inspection, according to SB 721. The inspector must also look at the load-bearing components, the associated waterproofing elements (which include flashings, coatings, membranes, and sealants), and the railings. The goal of the inspection is to evaluate the exterior elevated elements’ current state—especially the supporting wood structures, which can rot or be compromised by termite damage—and make recommendations for further inspections or repairs. If any balcony/deck/staircase/walkway poses an immediate danger to people walking or standing on them, they must immediately be restricted from use until they can be repaired.
Apartment buildings with exterior elevated elements are clearly subject to SB 721, but what about other types of buildings? Actually, the law never mentions apartment buildings by name, but instead says that “buildings with 3 or more multifamily dwelling units” are those that need to have their exterior elevated elements inspected. This means that if you own a triplex or a quadplex with a balcony or other structure that could be considered an exterior elevated element, you need to bring in a qualified inspector.
Do Condominium Complexes Fall Under SB 721?
Condominium complexes fall under a different (although very similar) law: SB 326. Condos are typically individually owned, but it is often the responsibility of the condo association to maintain and repair the complex’s exterior elevated elements. Therefore, complying with SB 326 most often falls under the responsibility of the condo association, not the individual owners.
Who to Call If You Need Help Complying with SB 721 or SB 326
If you are someone who is responsible for a building that needs its exterior elevated elements inspected, it’s important that you work with a qualified inspector—one who understands SB 721 and SB 326 and who will meet all of its guidelines (including producing an inspection report).
DTS has put together a team of qualified inspectors in California who can make sure your building or complex is in compliance with SB 721 or SB 326. We also have a network of general contractors who can complete any needed repairs following the inspection.
Contact us at DTS to learn more or to get an estimate on having your inspection completed by the January 1, 2025 deadline.