California SB 721 Balcony Inspections

What is the California required SB 721 Balcony, Deck, & Stair Inspection?

• In 2015 a group of UC Berkeley students were outside on an apartment balcony and the balcony gave way killing 6 people, and injuring 7 others. This balcony failed because the floor joists holding up the balcony were rotted out because of dry rot. This dry rot, which is a type of wood fungus, was caused by moisture entering the joist space through holes and cracks in the deck surface above.  

• As a result of this tragedy, in 2018, the California legislature passed Senate Bill – SB 721, known as The Balcony Inspection Bill, which requires apartment owners to have their elevated balconies, elevated walkways, and stairways inspected by a licensed professional every 6 years.  

• If the inspection finds that there are deficiencies in the water proofing of the walking surface above the floor joists, or if there is dry rot or other damage to the structural members (floor joists), then corrective action must be taken to repair the floor joists, or seal up the walking surface above the joists to make it water tight, so that there is no water intrusion into the joist space.  

• Water that leaks into the joist space promotes fungal growth on the wood joists, known as dry rot, which deteriorates the floor joists leading to possible failure. 

• SB 721 also requires that the stairs are to be inspected for structural integrity. 

• Click here to see California Senate Bill SB721 regulations.

Berkeley Balcony Disaster

What does the SB 721 inspection involve?

• Examining the condition of the waterproofing system used on the walking surface of the balcony or elevated walkways, to insure that water is not entering into the joist space which can cause dry rot of the structural floor joists.

• Assessment of the structural integrity of the elevated walkways and balconies

• Assessment of the structural integrity of the stairways

What’s In The SB 721 Report?

• The SB 721 report will be prepared documenting the existing conditions of the elevated balconies, decks and stairways.  

• The report will contain pictures and identify any deficiencies which will require repairs.  

• If the problems found in the inspection are non – life threatening, then the apartment owner has 120 days to secure a permit to make repairs and another 120 days to make the repairs.  

• If the inspection finds that the condition of the elevated structure is life threatening, the apartment owner must immediately stop access to this section of the elevated walkway or balcony, with repairs made immediately.  

• If problems are found during the SB 721 inspection, which requires repairs, a follow-up inspection will be ordered at the owner’s discretion, to verify and document that repairs have been made. We will then prepare an amended report which will document that repairs are complete and that the apartment complex passes the SB 721 inspection requirements. 

• If you have questions regarding the SB 721 balcony and deck inspection call Tom Nelson – 619-679-0457!


• California law requires that all apartments which have 3 or more units, and that have exterior elevated elements (balconies, decks, and stairs) that are greater than 6 ft above ground level

• The first inspection is required no later than Jan 1, 2025

• Follow-up inspections are required every 6 years

• Tom Nelson PE  


Balcony Inspection
Balcony Inspections
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