5 Questions & Answers About Water Leak Responsibility


BY: JOHN ATKINSON, SSKB SUNSHINE COAST GENERAL MANAGER

In periods of heavy rain (which we often experience in Sunshine Coast),   water often finds a way to cause a nuisance inside as well as outside.

For owners, committees, building managers and body corporate managers this create the need for some thorough investigation and a hard look at the QLD Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997.

In basic terms, the body corporate is responsible for the maintenance of common property and each owner is responsible for the interior of his or her lot. Bring into the equation the fact that the developer/builder has an ongoing responsibility to repair any structural faults within six and a quarter years of the date of Practical Completion.

The Questions

Seems like determining who has the responsibility for water leaks is pretty clean cut then… Or, what if:

  1. The water comes through the ceiling of a high-rise unit from an over-flowed bath above?
  2. There is a hole in the pipe providing water to your unit?
  3. You are an investor-owner whose tenant has left the bedroom window open?
  4. Water enters through the grouting in your balcony and ruins your tiles and flooring timber and the ceiling of your neighbour’s unit below?
  5. The drainage on the balcony of the Unit above you blocks and water overflows and causes damage to your balcony?

And so on… Perhaps it’s not quite so easy after all.

For owners in Bodies Corporate where there is a Building Manager, he or she should be your first port of call (sorry, there seems to be water everywhere!). If he or she is uncertain, your body corporate manager is next.

Then, responsibility for the necessary repairs will need to be clearly determined and the date of Practical Completion identified. If body corporate expenditure is involved, the committee or a representative of the committee (in larger buildings it is sometimes a good idea to have a building sub-committee) will need to be involved. This will also mean some delay because alternate quotes may be required and, perhaps, that magic word ‘insurance’.

We would ask for patience here, recognising that this is an incredibly frustrating experience for the lot owner.

But, if you were an uninvolved lot owner, I am sure that you would want care taken to ensure that your levies are not spent on repairs that are not a body corporate responsibility and that if it is a body corporate responsibility, as little as necessary is spent.

The answers

Oh yes, I do believe you were promised the answers as well.

  1. There is (between the floor of the unit above and your ceiling) either a microscopic space or a membrane which is owned by the body corporate which gives the responsibility to the body corporate.
  2. If the pipe services only your unit, the responsibility is yours.
  3. Your tenant, your responsibility. Though you would have a good case to make it the tenant’s.
  4. They are getting tougher, and the answer is ’it depends’. Although, if the balcony is on title, there is a good chance that the responsibility is yours.
  5. Each owner has a responsibility to maintain his or her own lot and if failure to that results in cost to another owner then the first owner may well be expected to make good the damage caused to the property of the second owner.

Situations may vary to alter the circumstances above and it is important to remember that water can travel a long way from where it starts.

Hopefully, though, the above information may help if water problems come your way.



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Recent Comments

4 Comments

Nancy On May 21, 2017 | Reply

Are drains on balconies in apartment blocks in Brisbane mandatory?
Can I ask the landlord to install a drain?

    SSKB On May 24, 2017 | Reply

    Hello Nancy,
    All buildings are built and certified to the Building Code of Australia. Depending on the type of building, when it was built and other variables determine if a particular building requires drains. If your balcony does not have a drain, then it is unlikely that it was required to have one.

    I hope this information assists.

Ben Smith On May 7, 2018 | Reply

Hi, good article.

I have had a tenant call me today to say that a Flexi-pipe to the kitchen sink burst and was running for 1-2 minutes before they could turn it off. Water went immediately, as if there was no barrier at all, into the unit below (the tenant went down there to check). I spoke to the building manager and he said that it is clear cut that this is my responsibility and that the body corporate will not be involved. He also stated that this exact event has occurred in the building previously and the body corporate would not utilise their insurance.

How do you think I should proceed especially if the body corporate refuses any liability? Is QCAT the only avenue or is there another process?

Thank you

    SSKB On June 20, 2018 | Reply

    Hi Ben,
    Thank you, we’re glad you found the article helpful.

    As to your question, without knowing the value of the Insurance excess or water claims history for your scheme, our initial thoughts are to support what the Building Manager has said due to the possible value of the damage caused vs the value of the excess. From the sounds of the event we assume there was only a relatively small volume of water that would have ended up in the Lot below. We identify that if there were any personal belongings damaged in this event, then they would not be covered by the Body Corporate insurance policy, therefore any claim may come from that resident against you as the Lot Owner of the Lot where the water originated from. You should enquire as to what is the value of the Insurance excess before making any final decisions on your approach.

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