Is the Risk Real? Your newsletter about balcony inspections was a little scary. Is the risk of a balcony collapse real? Has anyone in California been injured from a balcony collapse? -David J.
ANSWER: Balcony and walkway collapses are real. Following are some examples:
In 1981, two walkways at a Hyatt Hotel in Kansas City collapsed, one onto the other, killing 114 and injuring 216.
In 1992, a balcony in Malibu packed with partiers collapsed, pitching everyone 25 feet onto rocky surf below, killing 2 and injuring 29. The 35 paramedics who responded were hampered by slippery rocks and crashing waves as they rescued seriously injured victims.
In 2003, wood rot led to a balcony collapse in Chicago, killing 13 partiers and injuring 57. Subsequent inspections of similar structures in Chicago found 1,260 needing repairs.
In 2005, an association we represented discovered every one of its balconies had to be renovated when an owner stepped onto her balcony and went through the flooring. The structural elements suffered serious dry rot because the developer had installed ceramic tile on the decks, which allowed water to seep through the grout and migrate into the wood underneath. The emergency special assessment that followed was well over one million dollars.
In 2010, another association our firm represented noticed balcony railings were loose. Investigation showed that the structural elements were suffering dry rot. Every balcony had to be stripped and rebuilt. There was nothing in their reserves to cover the expense, and a large special assessment was levied.
In 2015, a third-story balcony in Berkeley collapsed, pitching students 30 feet to the pavement below, killing 6 and injuring 7. Subsequent inspections found that more than 400 balconies and decks in Berkeley needed corrective work.
In 2019, 22 people were injured in Wildwood, New Jersey, when three levels of decking in a condominium association collapsed, pancake style, onto one another. People on the middle and lower decks suffered serious broken bone injuries. Inspections were ordered for all balconies and decks on the island.
In 2019, a Virginia Tech Professor studied balcony collapses and noted 239 major collapses in a fifteen-year period from 2001 to 2016 that led to 4,600 emergency room visits.
Invasive Inspection. An imminent balcony failure cannot be detected by an external visual inspection. That's why it must be invasive. There are two methods of conducting the inspection. The first is to cut open the underside of a balcony, exposing the structure and installing inspection vents. The vents allow for future inspections.
Another method is to drill a hole into the underside and insert the flexible tube of a borescope that allows the inspector to see the structural elements. In the medical field, a variation of the scope is used to perform colonoscopies and endoscopies.
RECOMMENDATION: To be indelicate, all condominium associations in California with 3 or more units are required to have a colonoscopy. If an association fails or refuses to comply with the statute's requirements, it will be a breach of the board's duty of care and deemed negligent as a matter of law. (See Negligence Per Se.) Then, it's only a matter of establishing the amount of damages the association will be ordered to pay. The special assessment that follows will be significantly more than the cost of complying with the law.
Boards should start scheduling inspections. Reserves can be used to pay for the inspections without it being a borrowing. (Be sure to inform your reserve analyst.) Following is a list of inspection companies readers sent to us. For easy reference, they are also included on our website under Elevated Structure Inspections. If readers know of other companies, I will include their contact information on our website.
Planned Developments. Our PUD complex has elevated balconies, but maintenance is the responsibility of owners, not the HOA. Is the HOA still required to arrange for and pay for safety inspections? Are owners required to get inspections? -K.S.
|A7 Group, Inc.
700 2nd Street Unit H
Encinitas, CA 92024
|CL Sigler & Association
523 Charcot Ave. #203, San Jose 95131 (408) 922-0262 and 74820 Borro Dr., Palm Desert 92260 (760) 469-3048
701 Palomar Airport Rd. Suite 300, Carlsbad, CA 92011
|Design Build Associates
5655 Lindero Canyon Road, Suite 321, Westlake Village, CA 91362
2030 E 4th St #208D
Santa Ana, CA 92705
|Focused Inspection Group
1999 S. Bascom Ave., Suite 700, Campbell 95008 and 333 City Blvd. West, Suite 1700, Orange 92868
2544 Barrington Court
Hayward, CA 94545
|Southern Cross Consultants
4045 Hancock St., Suite 240
San Diego 92110
Matthew Boomhower, AIA
|Van Sande Consultants
2920 De la Vina St.
Santa Barbara 93105
Carolle Van Sande, CSM
ANSWER: If owners need an inspection, they should contact their doctor. If their balcony needs an inspection, they should see the list above. To be clear, the statute does NOT apply to planned developments, only to condominium associations with 3 or more units. Those with townhouse construction should have legal counsel review their documents.
Insurance. Does HOA insurance cover the cost of balcony inspections and repairs? –Anonymous
ANSWER: No, it does not. That's why it's important for associations to inspect their balconies now, so they can coordinate with their reserve study provider to start reserving for future repairs.
Federal Updates. CDC updated guidance on at-home testing. Also updated guidance on what to expect at your vaccine appointment.
Statewide Updates. Governor Newsom signed an Executive Order on 1/27 to confer immunity to healthcare providers administering the vaccine, to increase the number of healthcare professionals available to vaccinate the public. Due to increased ICU availability projections, Public Health Officials Lift Regional Stay at Home Order for All Regions. The Governor announced Actions to Simplify, Standardize and Address Vaccine Supply Needs in order to improve statewide vaccinations.
Northern California. Alameda County issued a new Order effective 1/25/21 aligning with the state’s blueprint. They have removed their facial covering order and aligned with the CDPH guidance on this issue. They have also aligned with the CDPH re: public gatherings. The County issued a 1/15/21 Press Release re Lifting of Regional Stay at Home Order. The County issued a 1/28/21 Press Release re: Aligning with State Guidance for School Reopening.
Butte County issued a 1/25/21 Press Release re: Beginning Vaccine Notification for Those 75+. The County issued a subsequent 1/28/21 Press Release re: Online Vaccine Appointment Scheduling for Those 75+.
Contra Costa County issued a 1/25/21 Press Release re: Lifting of Regional Stay at Home Order. Changes include outdoor dining, hair salons etc. may open, and outdoor gatherings of 25 people or fewer from 3 or fewer different households now permitted. The County has gone back to its social gathering and Social Distancing Order. The County issued a 1/26/21 Ethical Framework for Vaccine Allocation. They also issued an updated “Openings at a Glance.”
Lake County issued a 1/22/21 Press Release re: High Vaccine Demand.
Madera County issued a 1/26/21 Press Release re: Vaccine Clinic Reopening.
Marin County issued a 1/21/21 Press Release re: Vaccine Distribution Focusing on 75+. The County issued a 1/25/21 Press Release re: Regional Stay at Home Order Lifted. The County has reverted to its prior Order.
Mendocino County issued a 1/27/21 Press Release re: Scheduling Three Vaccination Events.
Mono County issued a 1/25/21 Press Release re: Lifting of Regional Stay at Home Order.
Monterey County issued a 1/25/21 Press Release re: Lifting Stay at Home Order. Monterey County issued a 1/28/21 Press Release re: Transitioning Vaccines to Those 75+.
Napa County issued a 1/25/21 Press Release re: Lifting of Stay at Home Order.
Sacramento County issued a new Health Order to align with the Purple Tier.
San Francisco County issued a 1/28/21 Press Release re: Reopenings after Lifting of Regional Stay at Home Order. The County issued a new Order to align with the lifting of the Regional Stay at Home Order.
San Joaquin County issued a 1/25/21 Press Release re: Regional Stay at Home Order Lifted.
San Mateo County issued a 1/25/21 Press Release re: Lifting of the Regional Stay at Home Order. The County issued a 1/28/21 Press Release re: COVID-19 Vaccine and Other Updates.
Santa Clara County issued a 1/25/21 Press Release re: Lifting of Regional Stay at Home Order. The County issued a 1/26/21 Press Release re: Expanding Vaccines to Those 65+. The County issued an Executive Summary of Changes.
Sutter and Yuba Counties issued a 1/26/21 Joint Press Release re: Prioritizing Vaccines for Those 65+.
Tulare County issued a 1/25/21 Press Release: re Lifting Regional Stay at Home Order.
Tuolumne County issued a 1/25/21 Press Release re: Lifting of the Regional Stay at Home Order.
Southern California. Los Angeles County reinstated the Health Order dated November 25, 2020, with minor modifications, to align with the lifting of the State’s Regional Stay at Home Order, which is included in the spreadsheet.
San Diego County issued new Health Order to align with the lifting of the State’s Regional Stay at Home Order and launched an interactive vaccination site map.
The City of San Diego issued an executive order capping third-party restaurant delivery fees at 18%. Also allows for creation of curbside pickup parking spaces for restaurants.
San Luis Obispo County exits the State’s Regional Stay at Home Order and returns to Purple Tier.
An Emergency Order was issued which temporarily suspends development standards for non-residential uses to assist businesses to comply with social distancing and other requirements, including suspending: minimum setback, maximum height of temporary structures, and onsite parking requirements.
San;nbsp;Bernardino County returned to Purple Tier. In person gatherings are limited to three households.
Santa Barbara issued a new Health Order to align with the lifting of the State’s Regional Stay at Home Order, which is included in the spreadsheet. Private gatherings are limited to three households. Face Coverings Order for wearing of face coverings outside was extended to February;nbsp;20, 2021.
Ventura County returned to Purple Tier after State lifted Regional Stay at Home Order.
READING THE CHART. Because the chart is large and the text small, you can easily make it larger for viewing by holding down the "Ctrl" key on the left side of your keyboard and then using your finger to scroll forward or backwards with the wheel on your mouse. You will see the text grow larger or smaller as you move the wheel. For a list of county restrictions and links to health department orders, see County Chart 1-29-21. The chart is also posted on our website.
|DISCLAIMER. Our newsletter provides commentary based on sketchy information we receive from readers. From time to time, we add a little humor. Some find it amusing. Others are appalled. Some readers are excited when they score free legal advice. Not so. Our newsletter provides commentary only, not legal advice. You need to pay real money for an attorney to review all the facts and give you a legal opinion. We do that too. Keep in mind we are corporate counsel to California associations only. Request a proposal to represent your association. It's okay, we're friendly.