Beginning January 1, 2020, condominium associations with three or more units must inspect all exterior elevated load-bearing elements, such as balconies and stairwells, to determine whether they are safe.
Elevated Structures. 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 elevated 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).)
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 or Engineer. 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).)
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.)
Recommendations. Robert Nordlund, CEO of Association Reserves, Inc. prepared Recommendations that includes photographs to help explain inspection requirements.
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