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CA Weighs New Builder Disclosure Rules

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

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California legislators are looking to increase regulations on contractors and balcony construction, specifically, in the wake of the June 2015 balcony collapse in Berkeley, which killed six students and injured seven others.

The California State Assembly is currently considering legislation that would require building contractors to report to the state any felony convictions or any other criminal convictions “substantially related” to their work.

The proposed regulations would also set into motion research on whether the state should update building regulations related to balconies, and whether it should require contractors to also report any financial settlements related to their work.

The Collapse

The collapse on June 16, 2015 at the Library Gardens apartment complex killed five visiting Irish students and one American.

The failure stemmed from “extensive dry rot damage” in the structural wood beams holding the balcony up, according to officials.

California State Capitol
By David Monniaux, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The California State Assembly is looking at legislation that would require building contractors to report to the state any felony convictions or any other criminal convictions “substantially related” to their work.

Earlier this year, the Alameda County District Attorney’s office declined to charge any of the contractors involved in the original construction of the balcony in 2005 and 2006, but officials said they were considering suspending or revoking the licenses of the general contractor and subcontractors.

Investigators have said that during construction, the wood holding up the deck was left exposed to precipitation before being waterproofed, leading to moisture being trapped in the wood.

Representatives of the victims have filed several civil suits against general contractor Segue Construction, subcontractor R. Bros. Waterproofing, property owner Blackrock Inc. and other parties that stand accused of failing to address the moisture problem.

Past Settlements

The San Jose Mercury-News reported earlier this year that Segue Construction had settled numerous lawsuits in the Bay Area related to moisture intrusion and faulty waterproofing.

At that time, Segue told the newspaper that in 23 years, it had “never had an incident where a member of the public was injured after a project was completed as a result of defects in the construction of the project."

After the collapse, California’s State License Board reportedly said it had been unaware of many of the settlements, because the firm was not required to report them.

Survivors of the tragedy, and family members of the victims, testified before the State Assembly earlier this month, calling for the passage of the new legislation to tighten control over building contractors.

Industry Response

Similar legislation was put forth in 2015, in the weeks after the collapse, but did not pass, due to ambiguity in its wording and questions about how it would be enacted.

That bill would have required reporting of settlements; building industry groups reportedly objected because settlements are often used to avoid the cost of court cases, and should not be considered to be an indication of wrongdoing.

Industry figures have voiced opposition to the new version of the legislation as well, arguing that the new regulations will result in a waste of money and resources on the part of contractors. State Sen. Jerry Hill, who co-sponsored the bill, notes that architects and engineers already face the same disclosure requirements.

The California Legislature’s 2015-16 session ends Wednesday (Aug. 31); both houses of the legislature must approve the latest version of the bill by that time. If approved, the bill will then go to Gov. Jerry Brown to be signed or vetoed.


Tagged categories: Construction; Contractors; General contractors; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; North America; Regulations

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