In response to the tragic balcony collapse incident in Berkeley in 2015, California introduced the Balcony Inspection Law, a legislation aimed at enhancing the safety of exterior elevated elements in multi-family residential buildings. This blog explores the key aspects of the California Deck Law, its requirements, and the importance of compliance in ensuring the safety and well-being of residents in San Luis Obispo County and throughout California.
1.1 Understanding the Balcony Inspection Law:
Enacted in September 2018, the Balcony Inspection Law added Article 2.2 to Chapter 5 of Part 1.5 of Division 13 of the Health and Safety Code. Its purpose is to prevent future incidents and ensure the structural integrity of deck structures.
1.2 Scope and Applicability:
The law applies to multi-family residential buildings with three or more dwelling units. It mandates inspections for “exterior elevated elements” such as balconies, decks, porches, stairways, walkways, and entry structures that extend beyond the exterior walls. These elements must be elevated more than six feet above ground level and rely on wood or wood-based products for structural support or stability.
1.3 Inspection Frequency:
According to the California Deck Inspection Law, initial inspections must be conducted by January 1, 2025, with subsequent inspections required every six years thereafter. Regular evaluations ensure ongoing safety and allow for timely identification of potential structural issues.
1.4 Reporting and Compliance:
Building owners are responsible for retaining inspection reports for at least two inspection cycles, or twelve years, and providing these reports to future buyers. Additionally, inspection reports must be made available to jurisdictional officials upon request. It’s important to note that while the state law establishes minimum inspection requirements, local jurisdictions may have more stringent guidelines.
Importance of Deck Inspections:
2.1 Ensuring Structural Integrity:
Regular deck inspections play a crucial role in identifying potential structural issues such as rot, decay, insect damage, and inadequate support systems. Detecting these issues early can prevent costly repairs, accidents, and injuries.
2.2 Mitigating Safety Hazards:
By conducting regular inspections, building owners can identify and address safety hazards promptly, preventing accidents, falls, and injuries caused by compromised deck structures. Ensuring the structural integrity of decks enhances the overall safety of residents and visitors.
2.3 Protecting Homeowners and Liability:
Complying with the California Deck Inspection Law minimizes the risk of legal liabilities and financial consequences for building owners. By maintaining safe and compliant deck structures, owners can protect themselves, their residents, and the reputation of their properties.
Hiring Qualified Inspectors:
3.1 Engaging Qualified Professionals:
The law mandates building owners to hire qualified professionals to perform deck inspections. These professionals may include licensed architects, civil or structural engineers, experienced building contractors, or certified building inspectors. It’s important to note that the inspector should not be employed by the local jurisdiction during the inspection process.
3.2 Local Jurisdiction Regulations:
In addition to state requirements, it’s crucial to be aware of any additional or more stringent inspection criteria established by local jurisdictions. Building owners should consult professionals familiar with local regulations to ensure compliance.
Addressing Identified Damage:
4.1 Safety Assessments:
During inspections, qualified inspectors assess whether identified damage poses an immediate safety risk to occupants. If immediate safety risks are identified, building owners are required to take immediate mitigation measures.
4.2 Mitigation Measures:
Mitigation measures may include preventing access to affected areas, shoring, and conducting emergency repairs. If the damage does not pose an immediate safety risk, the building owner has 120 days from receipt of the inspection report to apply for a permit and an additional 120 days after permit approval to complete the necessary repairs.
5.1 Penalties and Fines:
Non-compliant buildings may face penalties ranging from $100 to $500 per day. Additionally, local jurisdictions have the right to enforce a safety lien against the building. Refusal to pay fines can lead to the local jurisdiction seeking to satisfy the lien through foreclosure.
5.2 Legal and Financial Risks:
Non-compliance with the Deck Inspection Law can result in legal liabilities and financial burdens for building owners. Complying with the law ensures the safety of residents while mitigating potential risks and protecting the interests of property owners.
The California Deck Law aims to enhance the safety of deck structures in multi-family residential buildings, including those in San Luis Obispo County. By understanding and complying with the law’s requirements, building owners ensure the well-being of their residents, protect themselves from legal liabilities, and contribute to a safer living environment. Regular inspections and timely repairs are essential for maintaining safe and compliant deck structures, fostering peace of mind and safety within our communities.