HOA Homefront: More Senate Bills That Could Help or Harm HOAs

May 03, 2018

Orange County Register
By Kelly Richardson

...Senate Bill 721 is a major bill applying to both apartment and condominium buildings. SB 721 arises from the 2015 tragedy in Berkeley in which six people died and seven others were injured when a fifth-floor apartment balcony collapsed.

The bill is co-authored by Sens. Jerry Hill (San Francisco) and Nancy Skinner (East San Francisco Bay) and includes adding a new Section 4776 to the Davis-Stirling Act. The new section would require associations to have an architect, civil engineer, structural engineer, or independent certified building inspector inspect balconies, elevated walkways, railings and any other “elevated exterior element” once every six years. The first inspection would be completed no later than Jan. 1, 2024. The inspection must be followed by a detailed report within 45 days of the inspection, and the inspector must inspect at least 15 percent of each elevated exterior element. As to HOAs, the new law would only apply to community apartments, stock cooperatives and condominiums — not to planned developments.

A number of questions remain unanswered about this bill, despite its laudable goal. Will associations and apartment building owners be able to find qualified professionals who will perform these inspections? Will the inspectors be held liable if they miss something? Will these inspectors be able to procure insurance to cover the risk of negligent inspections? If an apartment owner or HOA board obtains this inspection of 15 percent of its balconies, is that a shield against liability if one of the 85 percent other elevated exterior elements were to fail? SB 721 was approved by the Senate and is currently pending in the Assembly.