California passes balcony inspection law

Ever since the horrible tragedy involving the fatal collapse of a balcony at an apartment complex in Berkeley, CA in 2015, my team and I have been following news related to the aftermath. On September 17, 2018, Jerry Brown signed California Senate Bill 721 into law, thereby mandating the inspection of hundreds of thousands of balconies and other elevated exterior elements. Here is an overview from Xpera’s Justin Cox:

Balconies and decks, called “Exterior Elevated Elements” (EEE) in the bill, are common features in most multi-family buildings in California, largely due to the state’s enviable weather (droughts and wildfires aside). As indicated in our previous articles, wood-framed cantilevered balconies present areas where water intrusion, if left unchecked, can cause significant damage and pose the risk of significant injury or even death.

This new piece of legislation is aimed to prevent future balcony collapses like the tragedy in Berkeley in 2015, which left six young people dead and another seven injured. Since the average age of apartments in California is over 40 years, a large segment of the real estate rental market will be affected.

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In short, the new law requires that owners of multi-family residential buildings, with at least three units, to have wood-framed elevated exterior elements inspected by qualified inspectors by January 1, 2025. The law does not apply to condominiums, unless the project was converted from an apartment building and was sold after January 1, 2019.

So what’s the big deal? If the wood-framed elevated exterior elements of a building are not concealed by stucco or other cladding, the inspection process should be extremely simple and brief. However, for the thousands and thousands of balconies, landings and elevated walkways whose structural elements are concealed, the inspection process would require destructive testing, which could easily cost several thousand dollars per location.

So that’s why we at Xpera have developed and tested a proprietary method for inspecting the concealed spaces of wood-framed elevated exterior elements that can be performed for as little as a couple hundred dollars per location. To learn more about the legislation, as well as how Xpera can assist in compliance, check out some of our Balcony Assurance Frequently Asked Questions.


Image courtesy Wikimedia

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