Learning about leaky buildings

If the home you want to buy was built between the late 1980s and mid-2000s, there is a risk that it may be a leaky building. We use the term ‘leaky building’ because the problem is also found in apartments. These buildings can be very expensive to fix, so it’s important to get as much information as you can before you buy it.

Summary of important things to know
  • A leaky building is one where moisture gets between the outside of the house (the cladding) and the inside walls.

  • Buildings that have a high risk of leaking were mostly built between the late 1980s and the mid-2000s, using plaster-style monolithic cladding systems. The exterior walls typically have an unbroken or smooth appearance.

  • If you are interested in a house or apartment with cladding of this type, you should get an independent building inspection or a weather-tightness expert to inspect the property, because there may be no obvious signs of problems.

  • If you buy a property you know is leaky or has a high risk of becoming leaky, be aware of the risks to your health and the financial impact this may have.

  • This information on leaky buildings may not cover everything that is relevant to you or the property. You should always get advice from your own lawyer or conveyancer and other registered professionals.

IMAGE: Leaky homes

What to look out for

  • Outside

    • Rust or other unusual staining on exterior walls.
    • Any cracks in the cladding where rainwater could enter.
    • Wall claddings should be clear of the ground and off balconies and decks to stop water soaking upwards.
    • Decks should be set below internal floor levels.
    • There shouldn’t be any garden directly against the cladding because it may stop water draining out of the cladding.
    • There should be sheet metal or plastic flashings over windows and doors.
    • Any dampness and rot around windows and doors.
    • Parapet walls should have flashings covering their top surface.
    • Any penetrations, such as pipes or wires, should be correctly flashed where they enter the roof or cladding.
    • Any broken sealant.
  • Inside

    • Any stains on ceilings.
    • Spongy flooring or walls.
    • Swollen or cracked skirting boards or architraves.
    • Mould spots on interior walls.
    • Floor coverings showing signs of water damage.
    • Musty smells.

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