SB 326 Signed into Law
Requires Balcony Inspections and Eliminates Obstacles to Defect Litigation
On August 30, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 326 into law. The Bill adds new Civil Code § 5551 to the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act and becomes effective on January 1, 2020.
New Civil Code § 5551 only applies to condominium buildings containing three or more units. It requires associations in applicable condominium projects to perform a periodic inspection of condo balconies and other load bearing elements that extend beyond the exterior walls of the building—such as decks, stairways, walkways, and their railings—which are supported primarily by wood or wood-based products and elevated more than six-feet above the ground.
The inspection must be performed by a licensed architect or structural engineer no later than January 1, 2025, and thereafter at least once every nine years. The inspection can be limited to a random and statistically significant sample of exterior elevated elements within the project prepared by the inspector.
The purpose of the inspection is to determine whether the exterior elements are safe and performing in accordance with applicable standards. The inspector must issue a written report and use his or her best professional judgment in determining whether any further investigation is needed. Associations must maintain a copy of the written reports in their records for at least two inspection cycles.
If the inspector determines that any exterior elevated element inspected poses an immediate threat to safety, the inspector must provide a copy of his or her report to local code enforcement within 15 days.
Senate Bill 326 further enacts new Civil Code § 5986, which abolishes pre-conditions and limitations to a board’s authority to commence construction defect litigation against the community’s developer. The new law provides that if the association has reason to believe that the applicable statute of limitations will expire, the board shall have authority to commence construction defect proceedings, notwithstanding any limitations (such as the requirement to obtain a member vote) contained in the governing documents. The authority is vested solely in the board members not affiliated with the developer, and developer-affiliated directors are not allowed to participate in the vote.
Section 5986 further provides that any limitation or precondition, including, but not limited to, requiring a membership vote as a prerequisite to the board’s commencement and pursuit of a construction defect claim contained in the governing documents is null and void, unless the provision imposing limitations was adopted solely by the non-developer affiliated members of the association as a CC&R amendment.