San Francisco’s 604 Affidavit Certification

Decks, balconies and fire escapes are very commonly seen outside of San Francisco homes and buildings, and have even become a staple outside most apartments and hotels in San Francisco, but the vast majority of them are seldom kept up to DBI (Department of Building Inspection) standards. Even if your deck, balcony, fire escape, or other outdoor fixture is composed of the most sustainable metal, it is still at risk of not meeting safety standards and becoming faulty which could lead to life-threatening injuries. With an alarming rate of deck and fire escape owners unaware of the inspections and maintenance that are required to have a deck in San Francisco, the “604 Affidavit” certification has been issued by the city of San Francisco in order to bring attention to the importance of keeping exterior fixtures such as decks and fire escapes up to safety inspection standard so that they are safe to use for leisurely activities and even in the case of a fire breaking out and the deck doubling as a fire escape ladder.   The affidavit states that all outdoor fixtures, regardless of material type, on hotels and apartments (defined by a building hosting three or more living spaces) must be inspected and signed off on by a licensed contractor, architect, or other field expert every five years. By implementing this affidavit and holding property owners accountable, the city of San Francisco is hoping to reduce the amount of collapses and deck-related incidents caused by decks and other exterior fixtures. All exterior fixtures whether it is a wooden deck or a metal fire escape must be inspected by a professional and be kept clean, operational and clutter-free by the property owner. It is important to always keep any fire escape route clean and to perform any balcony repair (on fixtures with multiple floors) between inspections to ensure a safe and easy exit in the case of disaster. While commercial fire escape ladders are required of all apartments and hotels, decks are not always held to the same standard. By holding decks to the same standards as emergency fire escape ladders, the city of San Francisco can provide a consistent set of regulations for its property owners.   In order for a building to be kept up to certification standards it must meet the following requirements as stated by the DBI, “owners of apartment buildings and hotels with exterior decks, balconies, fire escape systems and attachments must have a licensed structural pest control operator, licensed general contractor, architect or engineer inspect your deck, porch, stairs, balcony or other attachments, every 5 years to assure their continued stability and safety.“ It is simple to conduct the 604 Affidavit certification if you are the property owner of a hotel or apartment in the San Francisco area. Unfortunately, there is no financial assistance available for performing an inspection; it is at the expense of the property owner.   The safety of San Francisco’s citizens, especially those who inhabit multiple-story dwellings, is the top priority for the city of San Francisco as well as all of its property owners. By implementing the 604 Affidavit certification, the city can ensure that decks, fire escape and exterior fixtures are held to a higher standard and the importance of maintenance and repairs will help reduce the percentage of injuries and casualties caused by outdoor fixtures.