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Water ingress from extreme weather

February 09, 2020

In the past few weeks Australia has experienced some severe weather conditions including high winds and heavy rainfall. HIA has received numerous enquiries seeking assistance on water ingress to buildings. These weather events and other similar events that have occurred in recent years, can at times be so severe that they exceed the Building Code of Australia (BCA) design benchmarks for homes constructed within Australia.

In such extreme weather conditions rain water can be forced through closed windows and sprayed up rooves in a manner which homes aren't designed for and therefore it's not surprising that water entered some homes.

The resulting water ingress may have caused damage to the dwelling, often this damage may only be of a minor nature, but can still cause considerable stress to the home owners.

When these severe weather events happen most owners contact the builder of the home to request an inspection or even rectification to the damaged parts. As a result HIA receives countless calls from members wanting to clarify their statutory warranty obligations on homes they've only recently built.

What should you do if a homeowner contacts you?

The advice to members, generally as follows:

If you receive a call from a home owner complaining of water ingress or other issues as a result of the recent weather conditions (e.g. issues with gutters, plumbing problems, etc.), the following approach should be taken:

  1. Arrange an inspection to see first-hand what is being complained of.
  2. Assess whether it relates to your works and/or materials.
  3. If you believe the water penetration into the home (or other complained of issue), is a result of defective work, then you will need to attend to the issue.

    If you do not believe any damage is a result of defective work, you should state in writing that there is no defective work and offer a suggestion as to what you believe did cause the problem, for example, lack of maintenance (e.g. issues with gutters overflowing and debris causing the problem).

  4. If you don't believe there is a defect with your works, you might suggest that the owner makes contact with their own home insurer.

This information if general in nature, and each case will need to be judged on its individual merits.

Inspection of buildings

The other problem many builders are facing is attending to house inspections after the weather events and consequential workplace health and safety concerns for workers accessing wet roofs for example.

Therefore in attending to inspections and rectification of any damage after an extreme weather event owners may need to be advised to be patient and that the inspection will occur when contractors are available and it is safe to inspect the building.

In summary, most builders and contractors face a difficult balance in attending to home inspections for buildings under the statutory warranty period. Many home owners ask the builder to attend to items claimable under the owner's home insurance or alternatively are maintenance issues for the owner to attend to. At the same time however, builders are held strictly liable for defective building work.

As such, each case needs to be considered on its individual merits and on their own facts and circumstances.

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HIA members can contact HIA’s Building Services team for more information on 1300 650 620 or hia_technical@hia.com.au