California Senate Bill 721, known as the Balcony Bill, was signed into law September 17th, 2018 by Governor Jerry Brown and went into effect January 2019. The statute requires the evaluation of balconies, stairways, and similar structures in multifamily buildings with three or more units no later than January 1, 2025. 

Balconies and decks, called “Exterior Elevated Elements” (EEEs) in the bill, are common features in most multifamily buildings in California. SB721 mandates regular inspections of exterior elevated elements (EEEs) by qualified professionals to ensure their structural integrity. This new law aims to prevent catastrophic balcony collapses like the one that took place in Berkeley in 2015 and took the lives of 6 young adults. 

Multifamily property owners must engage an engineer, architect or other qualified provider to asses a portion of “exterior elevated elements” (EEEs) to identify immediate threats and recommended actions. Specific timelines apply for reporting, permitting and repair, and subsequent reviews are required every six years.  

Here is a quick summary of SB721:

Which Buildings Are Affected By SB721?

  • Buildings containing three or more multi-family dwelling units
  • Common Interest Developments such as condos are excluded by this law, but are covered by California's second balcony law, SB 326
  • Condominium conversions sold after January 1, 2019
  • Who Can Perform The EEE Inspection?
  • Licensed architects
  • Licensed civil and structural engineers
  • Contractors who hold A, B or C-5 licenses over five years andwho has experience constructing multi-story wood-frame buildings
  • Local jurisdictions can also allow specific certified building inspectors from recognized state, national or international associations (e.g., International Code Council)

When Do They Have To Be Inspected?

  • For all affected buildings, the first inspection needs to be completed before January 1, 2025*
  • Subsequent inspections are required every six years after January 1, 2025 (That is, inspection #2 is required by Jan 1, 2031)
  • Condominium conversions sold after January 1, 2019 will need the EEE inspection conducted before first close of escrow. Afterwards they are subject to civil code section 5551 (SB 326)

*If a property was inspected 3 years prior to January 1, 2019and the inspector report was issued stating that EEEs & waterproofing elements are in working condition, they don’t need to perform an inspection until after January 1, 2025.

Other Notable Requirements

  • Contractors serving as the inspector cannot perform the report’s needed repair items for the building
  • Building owners must apply for permits on non-emergency repairs within 120 days of receiving the report. When a permit is approved, they have 120 days to complete the repairs.
  • Inspectors shall notify local enforcement if the building owner doesn’t comply with the repair requirements within 180 days. The owners can be assessed a civil penalty if the repairs aren’t completed within 30 days of the notice and could lead to a building safety lien on the property. 

As we all know, there are ongoing maintenance and expenses when owning multifamily property, however, this law could be very meaningful depending on the number of units you may own. If you have questions about SB721, contact our experts at LGSH LLP so we can help ensure you remain compliant with this law. Call us at 818-783-0570 or email us at info@lgshcpa.com.