The SB-326 Balcony Bill is ripe for scammers and less than ethical people to take advantage of. A “Sell By Fear” sales tactic has emerged and Boards and their managers may succumb to the pressure.
There is a lot of misinformation being spread about regarding the SB-326 Balcony Bill.
As an independent balcony inspection firm, we have seen this everywhere we go. I see misinformation being spread mostly by inspectors who are not independent inspection firms. Instead these inspectors have a primary interest in feeding their main business of construction repairs and waterproofing work. They operate by doing inspections at cut rate prices, luring in their mark by saying the inspection is free if we do the repairs, or “mail in rebate” or some other tactic to get you to bite. Then they fear sell you a job you don’t need. “All the decks need to be replaced because they don’t meet current code” and if you balk they say they will need to report this to the law and that the fines are tremendous for not complying. Fear sells. For enormous profits for the company and enormous commission for the salesman.
William Leys Waterproofing Consultants LLC does not have any conflicts of interests; we do not bid for repair work, we have no interest in any construction or waterproofing companies, or in any deck coating materials manufacturer’s or related industries. We won’t let you get taken to the cleaners. We are your agent. We provide you data and information for a fee that allows you to make good business decisions.
You are quite aware of the bill and its provisions so I won’t go deeply into the bill.
The bill requires inspections of the EEE’s in condominium complexes with 3 or more units.
The bill requires inspections of Exterior Elevated Elements more than 6’ off the ground. EEE’s consist of stairs, walkways, landings, decks and balconies and railings that extend past the building line.
In my opinion, if it could even be slightly interpreted that your deck qualifies as an EEE, it must be inspected. My belief is that it’s better to err on the side of caution than defend a lawsuit that asks why you didn’t inspect the decks because somehow it collapsed and someone was injured or killed.
As an inspector, we follow the balcony bill in defining repairs. SB-326 defines the two types of repairs that may need to be done- Non Emergency repairs and emergency repairs. A clear sign that you may be the victim of a scam is when the inspector tells you that you “Have to fix/replace your decks” without also declaring in his report that the decks are “emergency repairs”. If they do declare them as emergency repairs, then a on site meeting should be arranged so the inspector can show your Board the exact problems he’s found.
An emergency repair is defined as a repair that must be done ASAP because structural elements (framing) have been inspected by a structural engineer, and in his/her opinion presents an immediate danger and may place occupants and the building at risk if the balcony should suddenly fail. This type of repair must be reported to the governing building agency (County or City) over the property. Temporary shoring may need to be employed until permanent repairs can be made and the deck closed to further use until it is fixed and the building permit is signed off by the building official. The Board of Directors must act expeditiously to protect the Associations assets and protect life by proceeding with repairs as as soon as possible.
Non emergency repairs are the second type of repair. Non-emergency repairs can be made at the discretion of the Board on its own timeline. A non-emergency repair might be replacing drip edge flashings and coatings at the edge that are deteriorating, or patching cracks in the deck coating that are non-structural in nature.
RESERVES & LIFE SPANS OF COMPONENTS
I was an HOA manager, holding a CAI “Certified Manager of Community Associations” designation while actively managing HOAs. I have a strong understanding of reserve studies and their purpose.
Reserve studies list the components of a building (common area and exclusive use common area)-roofs, siding, gutters, decks and balconies etc that the Association is obligated to maintain, repair and eventually replace. A reserve study assigns a maintenance schedule for each component and an end of useful life date where the component needs to be replaced.
Reserve studies are generally considered to be “educated guestimating” as many different factors can affect a components useful life span. For decks, the average lifespan is 20-30 years for a deck coating system to wear out and need to be replaced. However, I have seen 50 year old deck systems still performing because they have been maintained and repaired and they are mostly out of the elements-sun and rain being their main adversaries. I have also seen deck systems that only lasted 10-12 years when they were expected to last 25 years, but failed due to lack of maintenance and repairs and severe exposure to pedestrian traffic use and weather.
However, just because a component is at the end of its useful life by the reserve studies estimate, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s it, it’s over and we need to replace the decks immediately. Rather, WLWC LLC recommends that the prudent approach to take is this; have an expert inspect the component(s) and determine if that component is still functioning as expected. If it is performing as expected, the reserved study should be updated to provide for an inspection of the components at a future date. Perhaps a deck should be reinspected in 2 year cycles. If it isn’t functioning as expected, can it be repaired to restore its functionality? If the answer is yes, the solution is to fix it and continue inspections periodically.
In the meantime, the contributions to the reserve account continue to accumulate and when the deck does finally reach the end of it’s useful life, there should be excess money for the repairs.
Conclusion- There are a lot of choices out there in the balcony inspection industry and some of them aren’t as a good a choice as others. At William Leys Waterproofing Consultants LLC, we know that we are only going to succeed by grounding our principles into just a few words-no conflicts of interest. That’s it.
We don’t have any ownership in any waterproofing companies, or a construction company, no interest in any materials we may specify, nothing. We make recommendations on products and company’s based on our experience in the industry and because we are not going to compromise when it comes to SB-326 and it’s importance and the gravity of why this bill exists.
If that works for you, contact us today. We specialize in working with smaller HOA’s for an affordable price.