How Soft Story Retrofitting Can Impact Tenants: What You Need to Know

SKS BLOG

Soft story retrofitting is a crucial process aimed at enhancing the structural integrity of buildings, particularly those with vulnerable "soft story" configurations. While the primary focus of retrofitting is on strengthening the building, it's important to acknowledge the potential impact on tenants during this process. This blog aims to shed light on how tenants can be affected during the soft story retrofit process and provide insights for both tenants and landlords.

  1. Advanced Notification and Communication: To minimize any potential disruption, responsible landlords and property owners should provide tenants with sufficient notice about the retrofitting project. Clear communication channels should be established to address any concerns, share project details, and provide updates throughout the process.
  2. Temporary Relocation: In very few cases, tenants may need to temporarily relocate during the retrofitting process, particularly if their unit is directly affected. Landlords should explore options for accommodating tenants in nearby vacant units or arranging alternative housing arrangements. It's important for landlords to provide clarity on the duration of the relocation and ensure the safety and comfort of tenants during this period.
  3. Adjusted Access and Safety Measures: During the retrofit process, tenants may experience restricted access to certain areas of the building, such as parking lots or common areas. This inconvenience is necessary to ensure the safety of occupants and workers. Landlords should clearly communicate any changes in access routes or safety precautions, such as temporary staircases, barricades, or signage, to minimize confusion and maintain tenant safety.
  4. Noise, Dust, and Disruptions: Retrofitting projects often involve work that can lead to noise, dust, and vibrations throughout the building. Tenants should be informed about the potential disruptions they may experience, including increased noise levels during construction hours. It is advisable for landlords to establish a schedule that minimizes disruptions during crucial times, such as early mornings or late evenings, and take measures to mitigate dust and debris.
  5. Utility Interruptions: During the retrofit process, utility services like electricity, water, or gas may need to be temporarily interrupted to facilitate the necessary work. Landlords should inform tenants well in advance about any planned interruptions, provide estimated timelines, and offer guidance on alternative arrangements if needed. Regular updates on the restoration of utilities will help alleviate tenant concerns.
  6. Safety Precautions and Emergency Procedures: Soft story retrofitting aims to enhance the building's resilience during seismic events. However, it's important to educate tenants about emergency procedures and safety measures during the retrofit process. Landlords should provide clear instructions on evacuation routes, emergency exits, and safety protocols to ensure that tenants are well-prepared in case of any unforeseen events.

Soft story retrofitting is a critical process to improve the safety and structural integrity of buildings, especially in earthquake-prone areas. While it can present temporary inconveniences for tenants, effective communication, advanced planning, and proactive measures by landlords can help mitigate the impact. By prioritizing tenant safety, maintaining clear lines of communication, and offering necessary support, the soft story retrofitting process can be navigated with minimal disruption to tenants' daily lives.

The seismic retrofitting 2024 deadline is approaching, and building owners must take action to ensure their structures meet the ordinance's requirements. Failure to comply could result in penalties and fines, and most importantly, put occupants' lives at risk. Building owners should consult with a structural engineer at SKS Construction to assess their buildings and create a retrofitting plan. With proper planning and execution, building owners can improve their buildings' seismic safety and protect their investments for years to come.

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