The term "leaky home" conjures up images of water dribbling down the interior of your home. Unfortunately this isn't the case. In fact there are generally very few signs that a home is leaking however there are a number of features, coupled with when the property was built, that are a good indicator of whether a home is likely to be suffering from leaks.
Below is a list of features that pose a significant weathertightness risk. This list is not exhaustive but if you feel that your home has any of these features we would encourage you to investigate further.
- Ground Clearance: Inadequate clearance between the cladding and ground, paving or deck, or insufficient fall away from the building’s perimeter. Clearance to solid ground (concrete, asphalt, paving, decking timber should be 150mm; clearance to soil should be 225mm.
- Cracking in Cladding: Look for hairline cracks in the cladding, typically found close to windows and doors; or discolouration of cladding in these areas.
- Joinery: Check for cracks along the joinery seals, between the joinery and the cladding.
- Penetrations: Check all penetrations in the cladding (e.g.: around pipes, vents or meter boxes) for gaps and lack of sealant. Also check to ensure meter boxes are correctly flashed. Any lack of flashing or reliance on sealant may allow water to penetrate.
- Pergolas: Pergola frame penetrating or direct fixed through the cladding may result in water ingress.
- Windows: Check window flashings – round, shaped or corner windows are difficult to flash, increasing the risk of water ingress.
- Enclosed Balcony/Cantilever Deck: These can result in a multitude of risks. (a) A lack of fall on the balustrade. (b) Hand railings attached through the plaster cladding. (c) Poorly applied waterproof membrane. (d) Insufficient drainage holes allowing water to pool after rain. (e) Lack of clearance between the cladding and deck floor.
These can include swollen or cracked skirting boards or architraves; mould on the inside of curtains and window liners; floor coverings showing signs of water damage; swelling, cracking and popping of water liners.
Use the HOBANZ Guide to Leaky Buildings to find out more about weathertightness problems and how it could impact you.
If you have just discovered you own a leaky home you are probably going through a myriad of feelings – anger or shame at being in this situation, blame, even denial at the fact that this has happened. All of these reactions are understandable but while you are a victim you need to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. Delays will only wear you down, can weaken any legal claim you may have and may result in your home becoming unhealthy to live in.
You need to think through what action you have taken so far. You should think about what outcome you would like, is this your dream home that you want to restore or do you simply wish to fix and sell the property?
You will need to engage a building consultant with specialist weathertightness knowledge to undertake an investigation of your property and establish what and how much damage has been caused. Their report would also determine the appropriate level of remedial repairs, as well as the likely costs. If you have already had a WHRS assessment done we would still recommend an independent investigation. In our experience the WHRS assessor’s report often falls well short of identifying the true extent of damage incurred and consequently the scope of repair and associated remedial cost estimates are often far below the true cost of repair.
Why is the Specialist Weathertightness Expert so Important?
It is the building consultant’s role to not only assess the damage your home has suffered but also to identify the parties who are responsible.
If you intend to litigate - make a claim through either the Weathertight Homes Tribunal (WHT) or the Courts - it will be the responsibility of your building consultant to act as an expert. In addition to providing evidence on your behalf, they will need to be able to refute any arguments the other parties may put up and so must have in depth knowledge of weathertightness issues and understand the construction defects they can cause.
Getting the Right Legal Advice
Once weathertightness issues are discovered it is imperative you obtain legal advice as to whether you have a claim or not. Under the New Zealand Building Act proceedings must be filed within 10 years of the act or omission giving rise to the claim.
Discovering that your apartment building is leaking is a distressing event. Owners are likely to be experiencing a myriad of feelings – anger or shame at being in this situation, blame, even denial that this has happened. The Body Corporate Committee is tasked with the unenviable task of trying to fix a situation that they have no knowledge or skill in.
Unfortunately the situation needs to be resolved as quickly as possible. Delays will only wear you down, possibly weaken any legal claim you may have and could result in the building becoming structurally unsafe and unhealthy.
In general it is one or two owners who initially have concerns about the weathertightness of their apartments while the remaining owners are unaware of any issues. At this stage, the Body Corporate Committee needs to understand the situation and help bring together all owners to accept there is an issue with the building.
Assessing the Building
It is essential to establish what weathertightness issues the complex is suffering and the effects of these. You need to engage a building consultant with specialist weathertightness knowledge to undertake a thorough investigation of the complex to determine the extent and cause of damage and the effects on the structural integrity of the building(s). Their report will also determine the appropriate level of remedial repairs, as well as the likely costs.
If the Body Corporate Committee has already had a WHRS assessment we would still recommend an independent investigation by a specialist weathertightness expert. In our experience the WHRS assessor’s report often falls well short of identifying the true extent of damage incurred and consequently the scope of repair and associated remedial cost estimates are often far below the true cost of repair.
Why is the Specialist Weathertightness Expert so Important?
It is the specialist weathertightness expert’s role to not only assess the damage the buildings have suffered but also to identify the parties who may be responsible.
If you intend to litigate - make a claim through either the Weathertight Homes Tribunal (WHT) or the Courts - it will be the responsibility of your building consultant to act as an expert. In addition to providing evidence on behalf of the body corporate, they will need to be able to refute any arguments the other parties may put up and so must have in-depth knowledge of weathertightness issues and understand the construction defects they can cause.
Getting the Right Legal Advice
Once weathertightness issues are discovered it is imperative the body corporate obtain legal advice as to whether they have a claim or not. Under the New Zealand Building Act proceedings must be filed within 10 years of the act or omission giving rise to the claim. They will review the construction and ownership documentation and assess the likely outcome of litigation.
Financial Assistance Package
The government’s Financial Assistance Package (FAP) was introduced to help owners of leaky homes repair their properties. Under the package the government and local council – if it carried out the building inspections and issued the Code Compliance Certificate (CCC) – will each contribute 25% of the “agreed repair cost” to help owners fund the repair of their home. While touted to be the answer for leaky home owners, the FAP is not proving to be everything it promises and is not necessarily the best option for everyone.
If Council have inspected the building works and issued the Code Compliance Certificate, even taking into account legal fees, litigation would normally provide a better outcome in most cases. If there are no parties of substance to pursue then the 25% or 50% contribution from Council and/or Crown does give some measure of assistance, however we urge home owners to seek advice before deciding on a course of action.
If you have been found eligible to participate in the Financial Assistance Package you will need to be able to fund either 50% or 75% of the estimated agreed repair cost, dependent on whether both council and crown are contributing.
If the FAP is your chosen option you will need to follow the steps as laid out by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). To the layman these steps may initially appear straightforward however they can cause confusion and stress as you progress. In addition it is vital that any professional you engage is not only able to complete the documentation required by the MBIE but is skilled and proven in addressing weathertightness issues.
Repair Plan / Design
You will be required to commission a repair plan to address the damage identified in the WHRS report.
Tenders / Documentation
You will need to run the tenders and prepare and manage the documentation required under the FAP process.
You can negotiate for third party contributions under the FAP. This means that if there are others who were involved in the design or build of your property, who are liable for the cost of repairing your home, you are able to assist in negotiating contributions from them towards the cost – which will reduce the amount you will need to contribute. The willingness of third parties to contribute may be a consideration when deciding whether the FAP is the best option for you to take.