The Future is Here For Condo’s That Don’t Maintain; and It Doesn’t Look Good From Where I Stand

In a search today for something entirely unrelated to decks, I stumbled upon the news that a Homeowners Association in Diamond Bar CA had been red-tagged and the residents ordered to leave their homes because of deferred maintenance leading to structural concerns. The order to leave has been rescinded after the first engineers report declared the property and immediate hazard and recommended evacuating units was found to be lets say “over cautious”. There are 155 condos at the property on the first and second floors. The second floor units have balconies while first floor units have a patio.

Photo credit to The Patch Diamond Bar.

 Several structural engineers reports on the conditions found at The Village at Diamond Bar came to the conclusion that “while there are substantial deferred maintenance issues that should be addressed throughout the complex property, the condition does not create a widespread and immediate danger to the life or safety of all occupants of the individual units as previously recommended via a report by Khatri International, a structural engineer hired by the Diamond Bar Village Homeowner’s Association.

However, multiple balconies at the complex remain red-tagged and off limits to use by residents due to structural concerns. The City of Diamond Bar in it’s notice put the Association on notice that they either had to repair the problems, or if they couldn’t afford to make repairs, submit repairs to demolish the structures.

As I read the article https://patch.com/california/diamondbar-walnut/order-vacate-diamond-bar-condominiums-lifted my mind wandered and I thought to myself, with all the news lately about condos nationwide with major problems, is this the future for many or most condos? As a consultant with a firm in Southern California, I see nearly everyday another condo building that looks similar to this one, with deferred maintenance problems, little funds in the reserve accounts for repairs and a Board that doesn’t want to raise dues, increase reserve account funding, or say the S word. Special assessment.

It’s understandable to not want to have to pay a higher monthly assessment. I often hear from residents who tell me that their dues go up but nothing improves.

Now with a required balcony inspection required by January of 2025 for condo’s with decks/balconies and stairs and more than 3 units, I predict in California the number of buildings/decks being red tagged as a result of inspections will increase dramatically. How can it not? Structural engineers are no fools when it comes to structural issues in residential buildings and their threat to the life and safety of residents.

As a deck inspector working with structural engineers performing SB 326 Balcony Inspections, I keep a roll of Red Danger Tape in my bag of inspection tools, ready to close off a balcony or stairs that appears to be a threat to life. I’d rather err on the side of caution and prevent a resident from accessing their deck than get a phone call that a balcony I inspected but didn’t close off collapsed and someone died or was injured.

To summarize and finish up, as condo’s get inspected under the balcony bill, many Associations will find out that they have significant damages and face huge costs to fix them. The question becomes, can they afford to? We’re about to find out.