Many Californians recall the tragic June 2015 balcony collapse at the Library Garden apartment complex in Berkeley, which took the lives of five Irish students and a California resident, and resulted in severe injuries to others. Following the incident, at least 13 lawsuits were filed against the apartment owners and various other parties involved in the design and construction of the apartments and their balconies.

Dry Rot and Inadequate Materials May Have Played a Role in Collapse

Several lawsuits allege that the suspect balcony was poorly constructed, sustained dry rot, and that various parties knew or should have known about the problems, but failed to take any steps to address the dangers. Some reports also indicate that the suspect apartment balcony may actually have been constructed according to building codes, but that poor workmanship in the waterproofing of the balcony resulted in water damage that caused the balcony to rot and eventually collapse.

Other Apartment Owners Are Assessing Their Own Vulnerability

Prudent apartment owners around the state have begun to review their own construction and maintenance records to determine if they are vulnerable to claims. Some apartment owners (and owners of commercial properties) are also trying to determine if they have potential claims against suppliers and contractors who may have used substandard techniques or materials during the construction process.

Berkeley Apartment Builder May Have Had Earlier Undisclosed Problems

As litigation regarding the Berkeley balcony collapse moved forward, various parties discovered that the firm that constructed the Berkeley apartment complex had faced other claims and, in previous years, had paid out some $26.5 million dollars in construction defect settlements. Legal experts point out that while California law requires architects and engineers to disclose any settlements or judgments related to their professional capacities, there is no such requirement for construction contractors. Currently, therefore, one can be dealing with a contractor whose past practices have been called into question and never know it.

Proposed Law Would Require Disclosure of Settlements

All that may soon change. State senators Jerry Hill and Loni Hancock have introduced SB 465 which, among other things, would require disclosure of settlements and adverse matters by construction contractors. On August 10, 2016, one of the survivors of the balcony collapse testified in front of a California legislative committee regarding the proposed law. According to one report, she tearfully noted that she and her friends had been celebrating her 21st birthday on the day of the tragedy. Now, instead of a day of joy for her, the date now marks the anniversary of the death of her friends.

Real Estate Ownership Requires Ongoing Vigilance

As recently reported, some municipalities now require regular inspection of apartment balconies and other areas on a regular basis. Owners of commercial structures should be concerned as well. All landlords have a responsibility to maintain their rental properties in reasonably safe condition and good repair for their tenants. The time to act is before the next tragedy, not after it.

Construction Defects Often Involve Complex Legal Issues

Any dispute related to construction defects will likely involve one or more complex legal issues. Having experienced, aggressive legal counsel on your side is ordinarily a key to success in any such dispute. For years now, CKB VIENNA LLP has represented landowners, property owners, construction contractors, construction professionals, and others in all sorts of disputes related to California properties. Our team understands the complexity of the issues and stands ready to represent you aggressively. We have offices in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles. Contact us by telephone at 909.980.1040 or complete our online form.