This article was posted on Tuesday, Jan 01, 2019

Deck and balcony safety is an important issue, and as a home or property owner it is important to stay on top of newly passed laws regarding this topic to ensure your buildings are always in compliance. There are numerous laws, regulations, and safety issues that are required to be followed, and staying on top of these is imperative to prevent any fines, penalties, as well as any harmful issues from occurring to occupants or the public.

As of September 17, 2018, in the state of California, a new bill has been passed that will require all exterior elevated elements and associated waterproofing elements to be inspected if they are a part of a three or more multifamily dwelling unit. This includes decks or balconies that are part of the building. A report detailing the findings must also be produced as part of the inspection, along with a list of necessary repairs that need to be made. The first inspection must be completed by January 21, 2025, which gives property owners plenty of time to get their buildings up to code. If an inspection deemed equivalent has been performed in the last three years, it may count towards this initial inspection so be sure to check. After the first inspection, these properties will be required to have additional inspections every six years (with the exception of some properties) and must be completed by January 1. This bill, known as Senate Bill No. 721, was approved by the California governor and filed with the Secretary of State.

The Inspector

What type of professional is able to inspect the property for you? The person performing the inspection must be one of the following:

  • Licensed architect
  • Licensed civil engineer
  • Licensed structural engineer or A building contractor with the following qualifications:
  • Hold a “A,” “B,” or “C-5” license classifications issued by the Contractors’ State License Board
  • Have at least 5 years of experience while holding one of the above classifications/licenses
  • Have at least 5 years of experience constructing multi-story wood frame buildings or
  • An individual that has been recognized by a state, national, or international association as a certified building inspector.

The inspector must be hired directly by the owner of the building. In addition, the inspector cannot be under employment of local jurisdictions, even if they meet all of the other requirements.

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The Inspection

First and foremost, property owners will be required to pay the associated fees out of pocket for the inspection, report, and any work that needs to be done on the property to bring it up to code. This bill was put into place to help ensure the safety of decks and balconies and to protect occupants and any members of the public that may be in or around the building. In other words, these exterior elements must be in proper working order, free from potentially hazardous issues like decay, mold, and fungus, can’t have any unapproved alterations, and must not pose any type of danger to tenants or the public.

The types of exterior elements that will subject to inspection include:

  • Balconies
  • Decks
  • Porches
  • Stairways
  • Walkways
  • Entry structures

Supports and railings to these elements, associated waterproofing elements, and any load-bearing components are also included with this list and will be inspected.

The inspector will be required to provide an in-depth evaluation and analysis of these exterior elements and provide a detailed report that explains the current condition of these elements, projected life of the structures, expectation of future performance, and any necessary recommendations. This report must be signed or stamped by the inspector and given to the owner of the property within 45 days after the inspection. As an owner, you are required to hold on to these reports for at least two additional inspection cycles.

Nonemergency repairs are required to be fixed within 120 days of receiving the report. You can obtain an extension if necessary, that would grant you more time to complete the changes. If the necessary repairs are not made in time, a local enforcement agency will first send a 30-day corrective notice that lists penalties and liens that will be enacted if the repairs are not completed. Be sure to get everything completed on time to avoid these issues.

Emergency Repairs

If there are emergency repairs that need to be completed, or ones that present an immediate threat or danger to occupants or the public, the timeline of events becomes more immediate. Instead of the inspector having 45 days after the inspection to provide the owner with a report, they will have 15 days and are also required to notify the local enforcement agency. These repairs generally have to be completed right away since they are considered an emergency. The local enforcement agency will take these recommendations more seriously and will want to ensure that you complete the repairs as quickly as possible.

Currently,California law permits an enforcement agency to inspect both buildings and premises, including decks and balconies, whenever deemed necessary to ensure compliance with the California Building Standards Code as well as other regulations. This bill allows these types of inspections detailed in the article to be included in this group as well.

The bill has also slightly amended the previous law giving landlords the right to enter a tenant’s property to include these regulations as well. This means that landlords and property owners will be able to enter the premises in order to inspect or correct any issue relating to these codes with proper notice.

The truth is, there are numerous laws and regulations passed all the time, and as a busy professional it can be difficult to constantly be on alert for when these new regulations need to be satisfied by. Stay on top of newly passed laws regarding your property by joining our mailing list. You can also follow us on Facebook or view our blogs for tips and news.

To read the full transcript of Senate Bill No. 721,

 Frank Castillo is the President of West Coast Deck Waterproofing, Paramount, CA. He is OSHA Certified, has a contractor’s license, and trains directly with all manufacturers he works with along with his staff to ensure that he is deeply knowledgeable on all products sold. In addition, he performs 200 hours per year of training to stay on top of the latest in his field. For more information, call Frank Castillo or visit  or email [email protected].