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Water ingress caused by severe weather

When severe weather causes water ingress issues to a residential building, it is common for the homeowner to contact the builder who recently completed construction of their home. What are your statutory warranty obligations in relation to damage caused to a recently constructed building?

Severe weather conditions such as high winds and heavy rainfall can sometimes be so severe that they exceed the Building Code of Australia (BCA) design benchmarks for homes constructed within Australia.

In such extreme weather conditions rainwater can be forced through closed windows and sprayed up into roof areas. The resulting water ingress may cause damage to the dwelling. This damage may only be minor, but it can still cause considerable stress to the home owner.

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

What should you do if a homeowner contacts you?

The advice is generally as follows:

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

  • Arrange an inspection to see first-hand what is being complained of
  • Assess whether it relates to your works and/or materials.

If you believe the water penetration into the home (or other relevant 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).

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.

Note that this information is general in nature and each case will need to be judged on its individual merits.

Inspection of buildings

Another problem many builders face is attending a house inspection after the weather event and needing to deal with consequential workplace health and safety concerns – for example, accessing a wet roof.

Therefore, in attending to inspections and rectifying any damage 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. 

To find out more, contact HIA’s Building Services team.

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