San Francisco Housing Code Section 604: Did You Miss the Deadline to Comply?

Last Updated on July 14, 2022 by Dan Cronk

The deadline to comply with San Francisco’s deck & balcony inspection requirements was April 1st, 2022. If you missed the deadline, you’re risking hefty fines and penalties.

san francisco housing code section 604

If you own or manage a building in San Francisco, California, you may be impacted by San Francisco’s “604 Affidavit.”

Passed on September 17, 2003, the 604 Affidavit seeks to bring building attachments up to safety code and ensure the stability and structural integrity of exterior elevated elements (EEEs).

At Deck & Balcony Inspections, we perform Section 604 inspections weekly to help California property owners keep their buildings safe, in good repair, and compliant.

In this blog, we break down the requirements of San Francisco’s Section 604 and what to do if you’ve missed the deadline.

Let’s dive in.

What is Section 604 of the San Francisco Housing Code?

Section 604 of the San Francisco Housing Code ensures the safety of San Francisco citizens who live in multi-story buildings.

The city of San Francisco passed Section 604 in 2004. The code ensures that all exterior elevated elements, including fire escapes, decks, and weather-exposed areas, are safe and stable and that any needed repairs are completed promptly.

For the purpose of Section 604, “weather-exposed areas” refer to building components that are not in the interior of the structure.

This helps reduce injuries and casualties that occur on these elevated elements and keeps all of San Francisco’s multi-story buildings safer.

Who is Affected by Section 604?

Owners or property managers of apartment houses (including residential condos with 3 or more dwellings) and hotels (with 6 or more guest rooms).

According to the code:

All wood and metal decks, balconies, landings, exit corridors, stairway systems, guard rails, handrails, fire escapes, or any parts thereof in weather-exposed areas of apartment buildings and hotels shall be inspected by a licensed general contractor or a structural pest control licensee, or a licensed professional architect or engineer, verifying that the exit system, corridor, balcony, deck or any part thereof is in a general safe condition, in good working order, and free from hazardous dry rot, fungus, deterioration, decay, or improper alteration.

Consult this document to learn more about which buildings are affected by this law.

Who Can Perform a Section 604 Inspection?

Licensed general contractors, licensed professional architects and engineers, and structural pest control licensees are qualified to perform Section 604 inspections.

What are the Deck & Balcony Inspection Requirements for San Francisco?

Section 604 of the San Francisco Housing Code (SFHC-604) imposes the following inspection requirements on San Francisco building owners and property managers:

  • 100% of exterior elevated elements must be inspected
  • Any needed repairs must be made immediately.
  • Once a property has been inspected by a licensed inspector like Deck & Balcony Inspections, property owners must provide proof of compliance via an affidavit form. The inspector must sign this form and submit it to the Housing Inspection Services Division.
  • Buildings must be re-inspected every five years.

When Was the Deadline to Comply with Section 604?

The deadline to comply with Section 604 of the San Francisco Housing Code was April 1, 2022.

If you have not yet complied with Section 604, you could be at risk of code enforcement action.

To determine whether your building is currently in or out of compliance, check the Section 604 Affidavit Log.

What Happens if I Don’t Comply?

According to the guidance set forth by the Housing Inspection Services, the San Francisco Housing Code retains the right to initiate code enforcement proceedings against those who do not file completed affidavits.

To avoid fines, contact us to schedule your inspection and bring your building into compliance as quickly as possible: (916) 238-0618.

What Happens During the Section 604 Inspection Process?

Here’s what you can expect from the Section-604 inspection process:

  • Free estimate. We start the inspection process by delivering a free estimate, during which we’ll evaluate your property and your inspection needs and give you a quote for the Section 604 inspection.
  • Section 604 Inspection. During the inspection, we’ll evaluate all your building’s exterior elevated elements and ensure that the elevated elements and the structures supporting them are in good condition. We’ll note any needed repairs or problems that we find.
  • Report. To compile the results of your inspection, we issue a detailed, interactive color-coded report.
  • Sign the affidavit. The final step is for the inspector to sign the Compliance Affidavit, which the property owner is then responsible for submitting to the Housing Inspection Services Division.

What Techniques are Used During a Section 604 Inspection?

section 603 inspection techniques

Wondering how licensed inspectors like Deck & Balcony Inspections, Inc conduct Section 604 inspections?

Here are the methods our team uses:

Visual Inspection

The visual inspection is a critical part of any Section 604 inspection process.

During this part of the process, our inspectors visually inspect the exposed surfaces of a building’s exterior elevated elements and their attachment points and other components.

Endoscopic Testing

We will use endoscopic testing procedures since inspectors must check for dry rot and other structural issues.

This method is less invasive than destructive testing and quickly and accurately detects moisture, the leading cause of dry rot formation.

To conduct endoscopic testing, we bore tiny holes in your building’s soffit and use endoscopic cameras to inspect concealed EEEs visually.

Moisture Sensors

Our licensed inspectors may also use a moisture sensor to check for moisture intrusion and identify possible dry rot.

Infrared inspections are also popular since they are effective for inspecting wood that’s concealed.

How is Section 604 Different from SB-721?

While SB-721 and Section 604 are similar, they are different laws with different requirements.

Here are a few of the primary differences: 

  • Section 604 covers hotels, motels, and non-residential buildings. SB-721 is only concerned with apartment buildings with 3 or more units.
  • Section 604 requires inspections for metal decks and balconies, emergency fire escapes, handrails, guardrails, and wood-framed E3s. SB 721 only requires inspections for wood-framed decks, balconies, elevated walkways, and guardrails and handrails.
  • Section 604 allows structural pest inspectors to conduct inspections. SB-721 does not.
  • While SB-721 requires inspection of just 15% of a building’s EEEs, Section 604 requires inspection for 100% of elevated elements.
  • Section 604 requires the submission of a signed affidavit at the end of the inspection.

If I Comply with SB-721, Do I need to Comply with Section 604?

Just because your building complies with SB-721 or SB-326 does not mean that you’re automatically compliant with this law.

Even if you comply with SB-721, you still need to comply with Section-604.

Both are required by California balcony laws, but they require two separate inspections with two different sets of compliance regulations.

This process can get complicated, so hire a skilled inspector who understands the requirements of both laws and can help guide you through the process.

Deck and Balcony Inspections, Inc. is here to help you comply with both SB-721 and SF Housing Code Section 604.

Contact us today to learn more about our inspection process or request an estimate: (916) 238-0618.

Why Choose Us to Perform Your San Francisco Deck & Balcony Inspection?

sample inspection report

At Deck & Balcony Inspections, we regularly inspect hotels and apartments in San Francisco, so we know how to keep you in compliance with Section 604 requirements.

Here’s why San Francisco property managers and building owners trust Deck & Balcony Inspections:

1. Free consultations and estimates.

Our team provides free consultations and estimates. We’ll review your inspection needs during the estimate process, provide a quote, and set an inspection date. 

2. Easy to understand, detailed reports.

A Section 604 inspection requires the evaluation of many elements and structures.

To make the results of your inspection simple, we create a detailed report that breaks down the condition of each EEE (E3) on your property.

This color-coded report is organized as follows:

  • Red. The presence of an issue that requires immediate action.
  • Yellow. Repairs are needed, which should be completed as soon as possible.
  • Blue. Maintenance is required on an EEE, but the issue does not currently present a risk to health or safety.
  • Green. No identified problems.

The reports we create are available in digital or PDF format, and each includes details regarding the expected service life of your exterior elevated elements (E3s).

If you complete repairs on maintenance on your E3s, we can easily update your report to reflect that.

Finally, this interactive report means there’s no need to create a new report for each inspection. Instead, we’ll use your initial report as a baseline and update it accordingly.

This saves you time and money and makes the Section 604 inspection process easy. 

3. We’re experienced professionals.

Our owner, Dan Cronk, has worked in the construction industry for more than 40 years as both a certified structural inspector and a general contractor.

Today, he and his team of engineers bring their extensive expertise to every inspection they perform.

4. We use non-invasive tactics.

Some inspection professionals use destructive methods during the inspection process. This damages your property and results in more expenses for you.

Fortunately, our team does things differently. We use non-invasive inspection tactics to inspect your property without damaging it.

Don’t Delay! Comply with San Francisco’s Deck Inspection Requirements Today!

Don’t wait another day to comply with San Francisco’s Section 604!

Here at Deck and Balcony Inspections, Inc., we regularly perform Section 604 inspections for hotels, motels, and apartment buildings in San Francisco, covering all these districts and more: Presidio, Haight-Ashbury, Financial District, Civic Center, Union Square, Nob Hill, Marina District.

Contact us today to book your inspection and bring your building into compliance: (916) 238-0618


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