Written By: M&M Properties - Sacramento Property Management

May 31, 2023

California Deck Inspection Law: A Comprehensive Guide

In 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 721 (SB 721) into law. This law requires that all apartment buildings with three or more units and two or more stories have their exterior elevated elements (EEEs) inspected by a certified inspector. EEEs include balconies, decks, walkways, landings, stairways, and railings. The first inspection must be completed by January 1, 2025, and subsequent inspections must be completed every six years.


Why is SB 721 Necessary?

SB721 is a well-intentioned and should result in remediation of deficit conditions. The law is a result of an incident that occurred in Berkely. In 2015 a balcony in a Berkely multi-family building collapsed resulting in the death of six students. It is unlikely that the specific circumstances of the 2015 collapse would repeat again, on a vast majority of structures now subject to inspections.

The inspection addresses structural integrity, flashings and waterproofing of the elements on a building with 3 or more units and two stories high.


What are the Requirements of SB 721?


The inspection must be completed by an Architect, Civil Engineer, Structural Engineer, or a General Contractor with more than (5) five years’ experience with the contractor holding a specific license as a B General Contractor or C5 Framing.

The inspections look for indication of any water intrusion and resulting dry rot or structural damage/compromise. Deck Metal edges, wall and transition flashing will be checked for rust, corrosion, and adhesions to waterproofing materials. Deck coatings will be inspected for cracking or other conditions that compromise the waterproof integrity. Stair and deck railings will be checked for securement and overall condition. Wood framing, joists, beams, and posts will be inspected for any damage that will affect the structural integrity.

The inspector is to issue a report on their findings with photos to document the condition of the building elements as a baseline for future inspections and historical records, to the owner within 45 days of completion.  Copies of reports are required to be maintained in the building owners’ records for 2 inspections cycles.


Inspector is mandated to notify building department (City or County), of any condition that is deemed an immediate or nearly immediate life safety issue. The owner has 120 days to apply for a building permit. When the permit is approved, the owner has 120 days to complete any non-emergency repairs.

Inspector shall notify local enforcement if the building owner doesn’t comply with the repair requirements within 180 days. The owner can be assessed a civil penalty if repairs not completed within 30 days of notice and could lead to a Safety Lien on the property. However, most inspections anticipate identification of minor problems that owner can address as routine maintenance and upkeep. The inspection will be beneficial to owners to assist them with budgeting and planning and to become aware of minor items before they become larger issues.


What are the Penalties for Non-Compliance?

Property owners who do not comply with SB 721 may be subject to fines of up to $500 per day. Local building departments may also take other enforcement actions, such as ordering the property owner to repair or replace the EEEs.


How to Comply with SB 721

There are a few things you can do to comply with SB 721:

  • Contact a certified inspector to schedule an inspection.
  • Make sure that the inspector has the proper licenses and qualifications.
  • Get a copy of the inspection report and keep it in a safe place.
  • Make any necessary repairs or replacements as soon as possible.


What are the Benefits of SB 721?

SB 721 is designed to help prevent future balcony collapses. By requiring regular inspections, SB 721 can help identify and repair any potential problems before they cause an accident. SB 721 can also help to protect the safety of tenants and visitors who use EEEs.

If you own an apartment building with three or more units and two or more stories, you are required to comply with SB 721. By scheduling a regular inspection and making any necessary repairs or replacements, you can help to keep your tenants and visitors safe.


This bill excludes a common interest development. CID and HOAS are covered under SB326. If an owner’s unit is within a CID or HOA, they should refer to their Governing Documents for who is responsible for the required inspections and to make the required repairs.

Existing law authorize a landlord to enter the dwelling unit in certain situations, including to make necessary repairs. This bill would additionally authorize the landlords to enter the dwelling unit to comply with the above-described requirements.

Because this bill would impose new duties upon local enforcement authorities, it would impose a state-mandated local program. The bill authorizes local enforcement agencies to recover enforcement cost with these requirements.

Barbara Lemaster

[email protected]

916.923.6181 X128


Darren Babby

[email protected]





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