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What to Know About the HOA Balcony Law (SB 326)

February 08, 2021 | Builder-Developer Services

On August 30, 2019, the Governor of California approved Senate Bill No. 326, which amends Civil Code Section 5551. Also known as the Balcony Law, SB 326 essentially protects property owners from building defects, and helps keep residents safe from hazards due to construction flaws. 

The bill went into effect in January of 2020. Here’s what you need to know about SB 326 and how to make sure your HOA or association is compliant to avoid fines and fees.

What is SB 326?

SB 326 requires associations to conduct visual inspections of exterior elevated elements and load-bearing components six feet above ground, including: balconies, decks, patios, and elevated walkways. It’s required that a Licensed Structural Engineer or Architect generate a report summarizing the findings, which should then be included in the association’s reserve study. 

Inspections are required regularly, and the bill outlines different timelines for both existing associations and newly built condo buildings. For existing HOAs, the first inspection of Exterior Elevated Elements needs to be completed by January 1, 2025. Subsequent inspections need to be completed once every nine years in coordination with the reserve study inspection.

For new condo associations, any new building that had a building permit application submitted after January 1, 2020, the first inspection deadline for newly constructed condos is within six years of getting issued a Certificate of Occupancy. Subsequent inspections have the same cycle as existing buildings (once every 9 years). 

The main must-know requirements for SB 326 are: 

  • The inspector must be either a licensed structural engineer or architect
  • The bill requires inspecting a “random and statistically significant sample” of EEEs (95% confidence, error margin ± 5%).
  • The bill defines the inspection process explicitly, including defining the term “visual inspection” and permits the inspector to use professional judgement to conduct further inspections
  • The written report must be stamped by the inspector

What needs to be inspected and who can perform the inspection?

A certified professional (either a Licensed Structural Engineer or an Architect) must be the one to conduct the inspection. The three main things they’ll be inspecting are the condition of load-bearing components, the condition of associated waterproofing elements, and an evaluation of expected future performance and projected service life. 

Many architects and engineers also employ a qualified waterproofing expert to also be present, in order to ensure the integrity of waterproofing systems for the building are maintained. 

The final report will advise the owner on repairs or maintenance that need to be made to ensure the safety of the deck or walkway. This will be passed on to the homeowners association, to allow them to assess the damages and budget for any necessary repairs.

There are two types of repairs that may need to be made:

  • Non-emergency repairs: the owner or Board of Directors are notified
  • Emergency repairs: referred to the Local Building and Safety Department

It’s important for all HOAs to stay up-to-date with the newest laws and regulations that might impact their communities. If your HOA is looking for an experienced HOA management company, APS Management can help. Browse our services or contact us to request a proposal today.