WATER leaks and water damage is a common and major maintenance issue that can cost apartment buyers and owners thousands of dollars to repair, according to the Australian Institute of Architects’ building advisory service.
Archicentre director David Karotkin said faulty workmanship, poor design or poor quality materials and ageing were 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 revitalisation with increased apartment developments,” he said.
“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, four per cent of dwellings have a major water problem and 34 per cent have a minor problem which, if not rectified, could develop into a costly defect.
“This compares with 31 per cent having a minor problem in the 2001 to 2010 period indicating that the problem is getting worse."
In WA, four per cent of apartments had a major problem, which affects the integrity or structure and costs more than $10,000 to repair, and 25 per cent experienced a minor problem between 2010 and 2015.
Water damage can occur due to:
· 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,” Mr Karotkin said.
“Apart from water damaging plasterboard 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."
Mr Karotkin said one common problem occurred 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,” he said.
“In one Archicentre inspection 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 more than 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 old and new apartment buildings would place an increasing financial pressure on owners' corporations and their property managers.
Mr Karotkin said it was important for people buying into apartment complexes to realise they were not only financially responsible for their own apartment but also for common areas which can included car parks, basements, lifts, lobbies and recreation areas.