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Have you registered for any of our upcoming workshops on SB721?

SB 721 & 326 (Chapter 445, Stats. 2018)"Balcony Law"

Exterior elevated elements must be inspected every 6 years, with the first being prior to January 1, 2025. Zebra Construction is taking a proactive approach to help make the process easy and stress free by giving you options, and enough time to plan.

The major catalyst for this senate bill was due to the collapse of a balcony in Berkley, CA which collapsed and 6 students died. A 7th died due to her injuries 7 years later. This building was barely 10 years old.


June 16, 2015 shortly after midnight 6 people died and seven others were injured after a balcony on which they were standing collapsed.

Overwhelming evidence pointed to dry rot leading the balcony to become structurally compromised.

Improperly maintained waterproofing membranes and lack of rain gutters  and improper flashing can expedite loss of structural integrity in raised walkways.



What Buildings Require Inspection?

Yes. All buildings must be inspected, regardless of when they were built.

Do buildings with out rent control need to comply?

Multi-Family buildings with 3 or more units are required to comply with the new senate bill 721, and Home Owner's Association Residences are required to comply to new senate bill 326, commonly referred to as the "Balcony Law".

If your property's units are detached, for example a duplex and a single family home, but they are all on the same APN or parcel number then it counts as 3 units and an inspection is required.

What must be inspected?

Elevated exterior elements

  • Balconies

  • Decks

  • Porches

  • Exterior Stairways

  • Walkways

  • Entry Structures that extend beyond exterior walls of the building
    Including supports and railings)

Who must the inspection be completed by?

SB721 (Multi-Family Buildings)

  • Licensed architect

  • Licensed Civil Engineer

  • Licensed Structural Engineer

  • Certified Building Inspector

  • General Contractor with A, B, or C-5 License (Minimum 5 Years Experience)

Home Owners Associations

When must inspections be completed?

  • Licensed Structural Engineer

The first inspection must be completed by January 1st 2025, then an inspection must be completed every subsequent 6 years and the building owner must keep their record of inspection for 2 inspection cycles (12 years)

What is the best waterproofing system to help prevent future issues? 

Waterproof coatings for multi-family apartment buildings must have a 1 hour fire rating and be waterproofed. The product used must have an approved ICC (International Code Council) report or current LARR (Los Angeles Research Report).  Zebra recommends Excel-Coat Pedestrian Traffic Membrane which is manufactured by UPI. It has a 5 year warranty but will most likely last much longer with proper maintenance.

The following products have current ICC or LARR Reports:

When do I need a permit and when do I need engineering plans?

  • Permit Required

    • Any project over $500.00 

    • Waterproofing replacement 

      • Over the counter permit (No Plans Required)

      • Must specify product being used​

      • Record of installation date

    • Sistering lumber​ or adding blocking

  • Engineering Plan & Permit Required​

    • Stair replacements 

    • Railing replacements

    • Structural Repairs (Removing & Replacing Joists Etc..)

What code changes happened after the Berkley Incident?

Click Here to See Bulletin

  1. Manufacturers installation instructions for impervious moisture barrier system must be included on plan documents. (Most manufactures have details available)

  2. City Inspection and Permit Required for impervious moisture barrier system

  3. Ventilation required beneath balcony or elevated walking surfaces

Is the Senate Bill 721 a Balcony Retrofit Bill?

No. To retrofit is to add elements to a structure which were not there when it was built to bring up to current code. This law is not focused on bringing elements up to current code. If you must perform any repairs, though, it may be a good idea to talk to your insurance provider about discounts you might be eligible for if you were to bring your exterior elevated elements up to code. For example, if your guardrails are only at 36", and you are putting new waterproofing on your walkway, it is a good time to upgrade. You can do this by adding extra rails. Current code calls for 42" height and no more than 4" spacing anywhere.



36" Height Railing
More than 4" Spacing

Easy Fix

Raise Railing with Piers

Add Screen & Rail on the bottom so no more than 4" spacing


36" Height Railing
4" or Less Spacing


Easy Fix

Raise Railing with Piers

Add Rail on the bottom so no more than 4" spacing

Easy Fix

Add Rail on the top with piers to raise height


Install new railing

Does the contractor who does the work have to be separate than the inspector?

No. They can be the same.


Senate Bill 607 - Chapter 367 Section 5 amends the section of SB721 which states they must be separate. 


(5) Existing law provides authority for an enforcement agency to enter and inspect any buildings or premises whenever necessary to secure compliance with or prevent a violation of the building standards published in the California Building Standards Code and other rules and regulations that the enforcement agency has the power to enforce. Existing law requires an inspection of exterior elevated elements and associated waterproofing elements, as defined, including decks and balconies, for buildings with 3 or more multifamily dwelling units by a licensed architect, licensed civil or structural engineer, a building contractor holding specified licenses, or an individual certified as a building inspector or building official, as specified. Existing law prohibits a contractor performing the inspection from bidding on the repair work.

This bill would eliminate the prohibition against a contractor performing the inspection from bidding on the repair work. By altering the enforcement duties for local enforcement entities, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

Read the full text of the Bill here.

What to expect with Zebra Construction?

SB721 Mailer-02.png

Call Zebra Construction & set up an SB721 consultation. We will visit the property and give a cost for any repairs which can be seen with out any destructive testing, a work order to install inspection vents and the cost of the inspection report.


Work Order & Plan. Zebra Construction can install inspection vents which will give access to load bearing elements and can be used for future inspections. Once vents are installed, a more accurate construction price can be given.


Owner then completes repairs with Zebra Construction, or another contractor. Once repairs are completed, Zebra Construction will issue final SB721 inspection report.


6 years from the inspection date, the exterior elevated elements must be inspected again.

If only 15% were inspected, a different 15% should be inspected this time.


Inspection reports must be kept for 2 inspection cycles. Inspection cycles are 6 years, so up to 12 years.


What the Zebras are Up to:

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