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Balcony Inspections 101: Understanding the SB 721 & SB 326 Inspection reports.

What California HOAs & Property Managers Must Know

Table of Contents

What Inspectors Are Looking For
      • Signs of Water Intrusion and Deterioration
      • Use of Specialized Tools
Deciphering Those Inspection Reports
      • Pass vs. Fail Status
      • Non-Emergency Repair Required (N.E.R.R)
      • Emergency Repair Required (E.R.R)
What’s At Risk If You Fail?
      • Consequences of N.E.R.R
      • Consequences of E.R.R
      • Disclosure Requirements
Your Next Steps After a Failed Inspection
      • Obtaining Permits
      • Taking Preventative Measures
      • Hiring Contractors
      • Completing Repairs
      • Follow-Up Inspections

For homeowners associations and property managers in California, dealing with balcony and stairway inspections mandated by laws SB 721 and SB 326 can seem like a daunting task. But understanding what inspectors look for, what the reports mean, the risks involved, and your next steps is crucial for keeping residents safe and your properties up to code.

In this guide, we’ll break down the balcony inspection process in easy-to-understand terms. By the end, you’ll be able to confidently interpret those inspection reports and know exactly how to proceed – whether that means routine maintenance or major repairs.

What Inspectors Are Looking For During The Balcony Inspection

The primary focus of SB 721 and 326 inspections is to identify any conditions that could allow water intrusion and moisture penetration into balconies, decks, walkways, stairways and their supporting structures. Why? Because water is public enemy #1 when it comes to compromising the integrity and safety of these elevated elements over time.

Inspectors will examine every nook and cranny, looking for telltale signs of deterioration like:

  • Cracks in surfaces
  • Rot in wood components
  • Rust on metal fasteners or railings
  • Unstable, shaky railings
  • Signs of water intrusion through stucco or waterproofing membranes
  • Properties located near the ocean (increased exposure to moisture)
drbalcony balcony inspector inspecting an sb326 HOA Condominium

Even hairline cracks and minor surface rust can indicate more serious underlying issues. Inspectors use specialized tools like borescopes to get a detailed look inside and assess the full extent of any damage. 

Essentially, they’re checking for anything that defeats the purpose of waterproofing and allows moisture to reach the structural supports – a recipe for potential disaster down the road.

Deciphering Those SB 326 & SB 721 Inspection Reports

Once the inspection is complete, you’ll receive a report detailing the status of your balconies and elevated walking surfaces. There are two possible outcomes:


If all components pass inspection, you’ll get tips and recommendations for routine maintenance to keep them in good shape. Properties still must undergo inspections every 6 years (SB 326) or 9 years (SB 721) to retain their “pass” status.


This is where things get a bit more complicated. Failed inspections are classified as either:

inspectors or engineers are checking the work - California Balcony Inspection Laws
  • Non-Emergency Repair Required (N.E.R.R): Repairs are needed, but not an immediate emergency. You’ll have 45-180 days to obtain permits and complete the work.
  • Emergency Repair Required (E.R.R): Indicating serious deficiencies requiring immediate preventative measures like shoring and restricting access. Repairs must begin within 15-30 days.

What's At Risk If You Fail?

The consequences of failed balcony inspections go beyond just property damage – lives could be at stake with catastrophic structural failures. That’s why SB 721 and 326 have strict enforcement policies:

Non-Emergency Repair Required (N.E.R.R) Cases

For N.E.R.R cases, if repairs aren’t completed within the given timeframes (typically 45 days for the report, 120 days to obtain a permit, 180 days for construction), the owner will face escalating penalties up to civil fines.

Emergency Repair Required (E.R.R) Cases

For E.R.R situations, access to the area must be blocked off and preventative shoring installed until repairs are completed and approved by local inspectors, usually within 15-30 days. Failure to take these steps can involve the building department’s code enforcement agency.

Either way, HOAs must disclose failed inspection reports to residents and condo boards. Dragging your feet on repairs is simply not an option.

Your Next Steps After a Failed Inspection

The inspection report will provide details on the specific issues found, their potential impacts, and recommended repairs. Once you receive a failed N.E.R.R or E.R.R report:

Licensed Inspector or engineer checking house construction

While it may seem like a hassle, following these protocols is essential to ensure the safety of your residents and avoid penalties or legal issues down the line.

The Bottom Line on Balcony Inspections

Dealing with balcony inspections is a fact of life for California HOAs and property managers – but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Approach it with the right knowledge and it’s a straightforward process to keep your properties safe and compliant.

The key things to remember:

image of woman thinking and remembering the importance of sb 721 inspection reports
  • Inspectors are looking for any signs of water intrusion that could compromise structural integrity over time
  • Understand the difference between routine “Pass” reports and failed “N.E.R.R” vs “E.R.R” cases
  • Don’t delay – failed inspections come with strict timelines and potential penalties for noncompliance
  • Work with licensed contractors to properly design and execute required repairs
  • Stay on top of maintenance – it’s much easier than dealing with major repair projects

By taking a proactive approach to balcony inspections and repairs, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your properties meet the highest safety standards. Keeping residents safe is the ultimate priority.

Q&A Time: Let's answer some common Balcony Inspection Questions

Q1: How often are inspections required under SB 721 and SB 326?

SB 326 requires inspections every 6 years, while SB 721 mandates inspections every 9 years.

Q2: What types of structures are covered?

Inspections cover balconies, decks, porches, stairways, walkways, landings, railings and any associated waterproofing elements.

Q3: Do all properties need inspections?

Any multi-family and HOA building, with 3+ units and exterior elevated elements that are six feet or higher above ground level, exposed to moisture and weather must comply with SB 721/ SB 326 inspection requirements.

Q4: Who is qualified to perform inspections?

Only Structural Engineer, Licensed Architect, General Contractor (BI), Certified Home Inspector with relevant experience can legally conduct SB 721/ SB 326 inspections in California.

Q5: What happens if I don't repair failed items?

For non-emergency repairs, escalating penalties like civil fines can be issued if repairs aren’t completed within mandated timeframes. For emergencies, code enforcement can get involved.

Q6: How much do inspections and repairs typically cost?

Inspection costs vary based on project size but typically range from $500-$5,000. Repair costs depend on the extent of issues but can reach $10,000+.

Q7: Are there any exceptions to SB 721/326?

Some property types like detached single-family homes may be exempt, but you should verify requirements with your local jurisdiction.

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