Balcony, Deck, Stairway and Walkway Inspections for California Residential Landlords

Apartment building

October 2018

California SB 721 requires inspections of wooden exterior elevated elements with load bearing components (i.e. decks, balconies, stairways and walkways). The initial inspection must occur by January 1, 2025, and future inspections every 6 years.

The new law applies to buildings with 3 or more multifamily dwelling units that have balconies, decks, porches, stairways, walkways, and entry structures that extend beyond exterior walls of the building, which have a walking surface that is elevated more than six feet above ground level, are designed for human occupancy or use, and which rely in whole or in substantial part on wood or wood-based products for structural support or stability of the exterior elevated element.

The inspection must be completed by a licensed architect; licensed civil or structural engineer; a building contractor holding “A,” “B,” or “C-5” license classifications issued by the California Contractors’ State License Board, with a minimum of five years’ experience as a holder of the license classifications in constructing multistory wood frame buildings; or an individual certified as a building inspector or building official. The inspection report must contain specified items and a copy of the inspection report must be presented to building owner within 45 days of the completion of the inspection. Copies of the reports must be maintained in the building owner’s records for 2 inspection cycles, and must be disclosed and delivered to the buyer if the building is sold.

If the inspection reveals conditions that pose an immediate hazard to the safety of the occupants, the inspection report must be delivered to the owner of the building within 15 days and emergency repairs be undertaken with notice given to the local enforcement agency. Nonemergency repairs must be completed within 120 days unless an extension is granted by the local authorities. Repairs cannot be completed by the same party that is conducting the inspection.

Local enforcement agencies are authorized to recover enforcement costs and must send a 30-day corrective notice to the owner of the building if repairs are not completed on time. There are specified civil penalties and liens against the property if the owner fails to comply.

The law does not apply to common interest developments.

Any building proposed for conversion to condominiums to be sold to the public after January 1, 2019, must have the required inspection conducted before the first close of escrow of a separate interest in the project, and would require the inspection report and written confirmation by the inspector that any recommended repairs or replacements have been completed to be submitted to, among others, the Department of Real Estate and included in certain required statements and reports, as specified.

SB 721 modifies Civil Code §1954 to allow landlord entry into a dwelling to comply with the new requirements. It also implements new Health & Safety Code §17973.

The text of the new and revised code sections appears in the downloadable pdf.

Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP is a full service real estate law firm representing residential and commercial property owners and managers. This article is for general information purposes only. While KTS provides clients with information on legislative changes, our courtesy notifications are not meant to be exhaustive and do not take the place of legislative services or membership in trade associations. Our legal alerts are provided on selected topics and should not be relied upon as a complete report of all new changes of local, state, and federal laws affecting property owners and managers. Laws may have changed since this article was published. Before acting, be sure to receive legal advice from our office. For contact information, please visit our website: For past Legal Alerts, Questions & Answers and Legal Articles, please consult the resource section of our website.

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