Since the passing of Senate Bill 721 and Senate Bill 326 in the State of California, there have been a lot of questions about what these new inspection requirements mean for owners of rental properties and condo homeowners associations. The laws give rise to a new era within the construction and real estate industries, because it raises the standards for Exterior Elevated Elements (EEE’s). This refers to any structural element of a building (including supports, associated waterproofing systems, and railings) that have the following properties:
- It extends beyond the building’s exterior walls.
- It’s designed for human use.
- It has a walking surface that’s more than six feet above ground level.
- It has load-bearing components that are made with wood or wood-based products.
All of these can include the following structures:
The definition of Exterior Elevated Elements was based on what was defined in the E3 Inspection Program that was passed in the City of Berkeley’s Urgency Ordinance in 2015, but the State of California refined it in SB 721 (which refers to any structural supports that are made out of wood or wood-based products).
The Effects of Ignoring Rotted Wood
After so many years, properties can experience a kind of dampness that can affect their wooden supports (called “dry rot”). If it’s left unaddressed, it can cause these areas to weaken (which will disturb the building’s foundation). Rotted wood is often found in areas that are usually ignored and don’t get discovered until the damage is impossible to ignore.
A lot of people dismiss rotted wood as just signs of age, but not taking care of it can lead to permanent structural damage. The wood and other materials in the property will deteriorate and eventually collapse. Buildings with rotted wood that doesn’t get taken care of can fall apart.
Some of the early signs of rotted wood can include:
- Cotton-like fungus.
The late signs of wood decay can include:
- Continuous fungal growth.
- Peeled wood pieces.
- A musty smell.
Dry rot can cause wood to crack along its grain, which gives it a soft and spongy texture. Wet rot, on the other hand, doesn’t spread to every part of the wood. The decay only stays in a single damp area. It creates a pungent stench and causes discoloration on the wood around it. While there is a difference between the two, both dry and wet rot can cause irreparable damage to your property.
What Needs to Be Looked at During an EEE Inspection
California codes require EEE inspections to identify each type of Exterior Elevated Element. Once they’re identified, the minimum inspection must include:
- Checking the condition of load-bearing components.
- Checking the condition of associated waterproofing elements.
- Evaluating the expected future performance and service life of each component.
The associated waterproofing elements refer to the parts that have been installed during the construction and are designed to protect the structural supports from being exposed to water and other elements. On a balcony, this would typically include the following:
- Flashing on the edges.
- A membrane or coating on the deck surface
- Sealants at corners and other places where water can get into.
Both laws refer to elements that use wood or wood-based materials for structural support, so steel structures don’t need to be inspected. There may, however, be local jurisdictions that are stricter. A section of the Berkeley Housing Code requires both “elevated wood and metal decks” to be inspected. If you live in San Francisco, you must also get a signed affidavit from a licensed inspector who checked all “weather exposed areas” of apartment buildings or hotels.
Penalties for Not Performing EEE Inspections
Senate Bill 721 doesn’t have a list of any monetary penalties or enforcement procedures for owners who don’t perform EEE inspections before the deadline, so local jurisdictions in the State of California can make up their own civic penalty guidelines and procedures for multifamily properties that aren’t in compliance. SB 326 also doesn’t list any penalties, because the inspection report will be incorporated into the reserve study. It’s more likely to have penalties that are similar to the ones for not following the Davis-Stirling Act.
Penalties for Not Completing the Necessary Repairs
If the inspector puts in the report that there are EEE’s in need of repairs, the owner of that property is responsible for starting the process within 180 days. Otherwise, the inspector is required to notify the appropriate building code enforcement agencies and the owner (who is then put on a 30-day timeline to complete the repairs). If the local enforcement agency doesn’t grant an extension beyond the 30 days, the owner will then be subject to a civil penalty between $100 and $500 per day until the repairs have been completed.