The newsLINK Group - Apartment Balcony Inspections
Editorial Library Category: Multi-Family & Property Management Topics: Balcony Inspections Title: Apartment Balcony Inspections Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: When you think about managing apartments, thinking about the safety of the balconies is probably not at the top of your list. Or maybe it is: the balcony at Berkeley that collapsed on June 16, 2015 has reminded everyone about the importance of balcony safety. Editorial: Apartment Balcony Inspections 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ thenewslinkgroup.com │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 When you think about managing apartments, thinking about the safety of the balconies is probably not at the top of your list. Or maybe it is: the balcony at Berkeley that collapsed on June 16, 2015 has reminded everyone about the importance of balcony safety. Of the 13 people who were on the wood- and-concrete balcony at the time of the 12:42 a.m. failure, six people were killed and the remaining seven people were seriously injured after the fifth-floor balcony fell onto the fourth-floor balcony below. (When it was inspected, that floor’s balcony also showed evidence of decay.) Experts suggest that the balcony failure was caused by two things: Dry rot. In an online article, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said the wooden slats that gave the balcony support had probably been rotted by water. Overload. Normally, the balcony should have been strong enough to hold 13 people. But that was no longer true once the wooden slats had deteriorated. The worst part of this story is that the building was a relatively new one, built according to 1998 codes between 2005 and 2007, and a private structural inspector had inspected the balcony in August 2014. According to that report, which does not go into a lot of detail, the balcony should have been safe for those 13 people to stand on. Balcony safety is a little complicated because you have to consider a number of different aspects: Load matters. You know those elevator signs that tell the people who ride up and down in them the maximum capacity of the elevator? There’s a reason for posting that information. A balcony might be safe for one or two people, but that doesn’t mean it is safe for as many people as can fit onto it. The balconies on older buildings are probably more dangerous than the balconies on newer buildings. Standards have changed over time, and it is fair to say that builders today are held to a higher standard than builders even just a few decades ago. Just as important, though, the materials used to construct a balcony can deteriorate over time. Even if a balcony was constructed and fastened correctly to the building, metal rusts and wood rots. That means the balcony can eventually fail. Someone has to take accountability for the inspections. If balconies are to be inspected, for example, who pays for it and how thorough is it? Cities are often cash poor when it comes to finding money for safety inspections, but at least in the case of Berkeley, the city is now thinking about making rental property owners pay for all balconies in the college town to be inspected privately. The manager for the Building and Safety Division wants mandatory inspections for any multi- story residential buildings; not only that, but the manager also asked for code changes so that new construction won’t have moisture damage on balconies, decks, or stairs. If you decide you need to have inspections done, make sure the inspections are thorough. Just going through the motions is an inadequate way to keep people safe, and when it comes right down to it, keeping people safe is the whole point. Don’t pay something for nothing. Make sure the inspection is a good one and is performed by someone with the right qualifications. Remember that you can end up being involved in litigation despite having an inspection performed. It isn’t going to cure all your problems, but it might help you to avert some. Balconies are expensive to replace. According to a Florida inspection company’s website, the current cost is about $35,000 per unit. That cost does not include the cost of additional cosmetic repairs, which would also need to be done. Having unsafe balconies can be expensive. In the case of the Berkeley apartment building, the company that built it knew it had a problem long before the failure occurred. The company is named Segue Construction, Inc. Since 2013, it has paid $6.5 million to settle two lawsuits involving balcony rot and failure.
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