Leaks, water damage can be major cost for apartment owners

Property Observer – Robert Caulfield

Water leaks and water damage have been highlighted as a common and major maintenance issue for apartment buyers and owners, which can cost thousands of dollars to repair.

Faulty workmanship, poor design or poor quality materials and ageing are the major factors in apartments or high rise buildings developing water leaks.

Water leaks are one of the major issues facing the ongoing boom of apartment building as major cities consolidate with high rise buildings and suburban areas undergo revitalization with increased apartment developments.

Older apartment buildings usually have increased problems due to lack of maintenance. Statistics from Archicentre’s pre purchase inspections between 2010 and 2015 show that across Australia 4 percent of dwellings have a major water problem and 34 percent have a minor problem which, if not rectified could develop into a costly defect.

This compares with 31 percent having a minor problem in the 2001 to 2010 period indicating that the problem is getting worse.

One common leak problem occurs with balconies constructed above another unit. It only needs one leak caused by a poor sealing job or a broken tile or a blocked drainage point to cause substantial damage to an adjoining property.

In one Archicentre inspection of balconies in an apartment complex with over 100 balconies, nearly all had a similar leak impacting on the apartments below. Intrusive inspections of selected balconies revealed waterproofing problems leaving the property owners with substantial repair bills.

With over three million Australians living in apartments and that number set to increase dramatically with an ageing population and the general population increasing, the maintenance of both old and new apartment buildings will place an increasing financial pressure on Owners’ Corporations and their property managers.

Water has a number of ways of impacting on apartments including:

  • Poor sealing of balconies.
  • Lack of roof maintenance.
  • Lack of maintenance on windows and external doors.
  • Deterioration of tanking for below ground car parks and basements.
  • Water is a very destructive fault as it has both short and long term impacts which can make an apartment uninhabitable.

Apart from water damaging plaster board and causing structural timber rot, it can also have a major safety impact on an apartment if water enters electrical fittings and a major health impact caused by damp and mould.

As part of Archicentre’s pre-purchase property inspections on apartments for prospective buyers, signs of water damage are high on the agenda because of their potential high impact long term on a buyer’s investment.

It is important for people buying into apartment complexes to realise they are not only financially responsible for their own apartment but also for common areas which can include car parks, basements, lifts, lobbies and recreation areas.

SUMMARY OF WATER DAMAGE IN AUSTRALIAN HOMES

Sample of Archicentre pre-purchase inspections 2010 to 2015 – 12,050 dwellings in this sample.

A major problem is defined as affecting the integrity or structure and costing more than $10,000 to repair.

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