Inspections Required. Per Civil Code §5551, which went into effect January 1, 2020, condominium associations with three or more units must inspect elevated load-bearing structures which are supported substantially by wood. The inspector must submit a report to the board providing the physical condition and remaining useful life of the structures and their associated waterproofing systems. The statue does not change who is responsible to maintain, repair or replace balconies or other elevated structures. It imposes inspection and repair obligations on HOAs as to balconies and/or elevated structures which associations are already obligated to maintain, repair or replace.
Elevated Structures Defined. Required inspections apply to load-bearing components and associated waterproofing systems. Load-bearing means those components that extend beyond the exterior walls of the building to deliver structural loads to the building from decks, balconies, stairways, walkways, and their railings, that have a walking surface more than six feet above ground level, that are designed for human occupancy or use, and that are supported in whole or in substantial part by wood or wood-based products. (Civ. Code §5551(a)(3).)
Balcony Maintenance & Repair. Balcony maintenance and repair obligations are discussed here.
Deadline for Inspections. Associations must complete their first inspection before January 1, 2025. Thereafter, elevated structures must be inspected at least once every nine years. (Civ. Code §5551(b)(1).)
Architect/Engineer and Reserve Analyst. The inspections must be conducted by a licensed structural engineer or architect. (Civ. Code §5551(b)(1).) The inspector must inspect sufficient number of units inspected to provide 95 percent confidence that the results from the sample are reflective of the whole, with a margin of error of no greater than plus or minus 5 percent. (Civ. Code §5551(a)(4).) The association's reserve study professional should be notified when the inspection occurs since the result could impact the cost allocations for particular line items in the study.
Inspection Costs. To achieve the 95% confidence level required by the bill will be expensive. It is estimated that most associations should expect costs in the range of $5,000 to $20,000. The total cost will depend on the number of elevated structures inspected to achieve the high confidence level required by the bill.
Inspection Cost Included in Reserves. Because inspection are directly related to reserves needed to repair elevated structures and because the definition of "replacement cost" includes related expenses, inspection costs can be included in an association's reserve budget.
Inspector's Report. The inspector must submit a report to the board of directors specifying the current physical condition and remaining useful life of the load-bearing components and associated waterproofing systems. The report must be submitted to the board immediately upon completion of the report, and to the local code enforcement agency within 15 days of completion of the report. (Civ. Code §5551(e).) The inspector's reports must be kept by the association for at least two inspection cycles. (Civ. Code §5551(i).)
Safety Measures. If the inspector advises that the exterior elevated element poses an immediate threat to the safety of the occupants, the association must take preventive measures immediately upon receiving the report, including preventing occupant access to the exterior elevated element until repairs have been inspected and approved by the local enforcement agency. (Civ. Code §5551(g).)
Local Agency Enforcement. Local enforcement agencies to recover enforcement costs associated with these requirements from the association. The bill would authorize the association board to enact rules or bylaws imposing requirements greater than those imposed by these provisions. (Civ. Code §5551(g))(2.)
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