Maintenance tips for avoiding strata property water damage

Avoid extra costs. Proactive steps to help prevent water damage on your strata, body corporate or owners corporation property.

Water can manoeuvre its way into even the tiniest nooks and crannies, potentially leading to significant damage over time. Detecting defects and leaks in strata properties can be challenging, primarily due to the large structures and intricate network of water pipes, electrical wiring, and air conditioning and ventilation systems.

If an issue occurs with such equipment and goes unnoticed, it can potentially cause considerable damage to fittings or fixtures, leading to costly repairs. It may event require residents to leave their property.

Water damage is a problem that isn’t just inconvenient – it can have severe financial repercussions and depreciate the value of a building. Keep reading to understand the leading causes to look out for and practical tips for preventing and avoiding water damage on your owners corporation, body corporate, or strata property.

Here are some ways to help prevent your owners corporation, body corporate, or strata property from experiencing the costly side effects of water damage:

  1. Correctly identify the source of  water damage
  2. Regularly examine your lot and common property for signs of water damage
  3. Establish a maintenance plan
  4. Consider water damage insurance coverage

1. Correctly identify the source of water damage

Water damage can occur on an owners corporation, body corporate, or strata property for various reasons. The most common causes of water damage to look out for include:

  • Leaking plumbing, taps or pipes
  • Ruptured water pipes
  • Mould, corrosion, or rot caused by seepage from cracks in the building’s foundations
  • Deteriorated roof flashing, cracked tiles/shingles or rusted roof sheets
  • Blocked gutters, piping, or weep holes.

In large or complex building constructions, tracking and inspecting the cause of water damage can be challenging. In some instances, an engineer or leak detection specialist may be required to find the source of the leak and recommend repairs.

2. Regularly examine your lot and common property for signs of water damage

There are some simple things committees, owners, and residents can do to protect themselves from water damage that require little to no technical know-how.

  • If the water pressure is a concern, consider installing a pressure limiting valve to reduce pressure on water pipes and joints and extend their serviceable life.
  • Connect a water stop flow valve to the main water pipe to help detect water pressure changes and automatically shut off the water when it is exceeded.
  • Regularly check flexi-hose connections to vanities, toilets, sinks, washing machines and other appliances for rust, corrosion or ruptures. Replacing them every ten years may help your owners corporation or body corporate avoid water damage caused by flooding.
  • Frequently check water and waste lines for signs of leaks, damage or corrosion.
  • Hot water systems have a typical lifespan of up to 10 years. If you notice puddles around your system, it may be time to replace it.
  • Know where your water isolation taps are located so you can quickly stop the water flow to the property when flooding occurs.
  • Turn off your water supply if sections of the property are vacant or the occupant is on holiday.
  • Check your ceilings from time to time. Watermarks or mould may indicate a leak from the floor above, damage to your roof or waterproof membranes or a structural fault with a balcony.
  • Keep an eye out for mould elsewhere on your property. This tell-tale sign indicates you have water intrusion that needs to be addressed.
  • Ensure your strata committee has a comprehensive maintenance plan that identifies any potential risk of strata property water damage caused by equipment failure.
  • Regularly clean gutters and drains so water can freely flow away from the building.
  • Maintain an up-to-date building condition report that lists faults and helps plan for repair.
  • Check that your insurance policy covers you for all types of strata property water damage and that your policy is current.

For self-managed schemes, owners’ corporations or body corporates are generally responsible for building maintenance, which plays a vital role in protecting the property’s value and structure. However, leveraging the knowledge and expertise of a strata or building manager or maintenance services can help simplify this process and guide owners, corporations, or body corporates to practice maintenance procedures following state laws.

For example, utilising a state-specific facilities management service like BFMS (NSW only), which has extensive hands-on knowledge and experience in New South Wales, can help improve efficiency and potentially lower operating costs and risks for strata plans.

Consider compiling a handy maintenance guide, with practical and actionable tasks included to check and maintain water systems within their premises. It also makes sense to share a list of reputable and qualified service providers with lot owners so they can engage specialists familiar with the property. Not only can they provide a more personalised, comprehensive repair solution, but they can also work proactively with the committee and other lot owners to address potential problems and take steps towards avoiding property water damage.

3. Establish a maintenance plan

An annual maintenance plan is a preventative maintenance schedule and record of compliance for plant and equipment within a strata plan or community title scheme. This yearly schedule helps identify:

  • A ten-year capital works or sinking fund plan to identify the estimated cost for repairs and replacements.
  • The current condition and expected life of property plants and equipment once repaired or replaced.

Additionally, understanding who is responsible for maintaining and repairing utility infrastructure in a strata property is essential. According to state government legislation and relevant regulations, the committee, body corporate, or owners corporation is responsible for the upkeep and repair of infrastructure within common property.

However, when the utility infrastructure serves only a single lot and is confined within the lot’s boundaries (without sharing a common boundary with another building area), the responsibility for repair shifts to the lot owner.

For a more detailed understanding of who’s responsible for strata property water damage, it is best to refer to state-specific government websites and legislations such as:

4. Consider water damage insurance coverage

Insurance is crucial in safeguarding strata properties from the financial impact of water damage. A well-rounded insurance policy can take care of repair and restoration costs. However, properties with a record of water damage might be deemed high-risk, potentially resulting in increased insurance premiums. Potential buyers could see this additional cost as a downside, affecting the property’s attractiveness.

It is essential to periodically review your insurance coverage that suits your property’s value and condition. We recommend consulting with an insurance advisor or broker to access the appropriate levels of protection to help alleviate some of the financial burden that water damage may inflict on the owners and residents. Engaging an insurance advisor or broker can be beneficial in obtaining the right level of protection, helping to mitigate the financial strain that water damage could place on owners and residents.

Discovering water damage in a strata property often triggers immediate action, with strata committees usually filing an insurance claim. However, submitting a claim doesn’t assure its acceptance, as insurers may reject the claim for several reasons. Insurers might argue that the damage has been evident for an extended period, and any ‘reasonable person’ would have noticed the issue and taken timely action to prevent or repair it.

When the situation allows, you don’t want to miss out on the chance of an insurance claim. Strata committees, body corporates, or owners corporations with a thorough maintenance history and detailed records stand a stronger chance of contesting such claim denials. Demonstrating a governance model that emphasises consistent building maintenance and performance, possibly through services like Community Health & Safety, can be compelling. By showing proof of proactive maintenance and repair practices, strata properties can improve their odds of a favourable claim outcome.

You can also click here to download our FREE Community Living guide series on how to protect your property against water damage.  If you want to learn more about our services, click here for a free assessment.