Late last year, parts of the Hunter such as Kurri Kurri experienced severe weather conditions including high winds, heavy rainfall and hail. 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.
The advice to members, generally as follows:
- Each case should be judged on its individual merits but in the majority of cases where the weather event has been so severe that it exceeds the BCA design benchmarks i.e. water ingress through closed windows and sprayed up rooves the home owner should be advised that they will need to contact their insurer and lodge a claim for the water damage on their home insurance.
- If the insurer inspects the building and reports that the water penetration into the home is a result of defective building work, then the builder should immediately organise an inspection of the home to verify this claim.
- On inspection if the builder believes the water penetration into the home is a result of defective work, then they will need to attend to the issue.
- On inspection, if the builder doesn’t believe the water penetration into the home is a result of defective work, the builder should state in writing that there is no defective work and suggest what they believe caused the problem, i.e. weather event beyond the minimum BCA design benchmark, debris blocking drainage or lack of maintenance including a build-up of leaves in gutters.
However, if a home under warranty has water ingress problems every time there is rain, the builder will need to be more proactive in ensuring the problem is not a workmanship issue in which the builder would be considered responsible.
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 rooves 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.
If you have any further questions HIA members can contact HIA’s Building Services team for more information on 1300 650 620 or firstname.lastname@example.org
HIA Executive Director – Hunter