Dealing with Water Damage in Strata

With populations rising across the country, more and more people are buying into properties with strata management. If you’ve ever lived in a multi-storey building, chances are that your residence was managed by a strata board. And, while it makes life a lot easier sometimes, strata can add a layer of complexity to any problem that would be an easy fix elsewhere. One example is water damage.

If you’ve ever experienced water damage in a strata property, you know how difficult it can be to put right. It might have been a leaky balcony or it might have been water from next door seeping into your apartment. You might have even been on the upper floor and suffered ceiling damage from broken roof tiles. Whether it’s inside or outside, water damage can be insidious. In a property with so many internal water connections (basically enough for an entire house within your apartment’s walls) there could be thousands of dollars of repairs waiting behind your walls in a strata property and you might not even know that there’s a problem yet.

We thought we’d give you an overview of who might be responsible for water damage in a strata titled property. Please note that this is generic advice: your building’s rules and determinations (or the nature of your water damage) may be different.

Water damage within the property

Fault for water damage generally resides at the origin of the water itself. So if your property has been damaged by someone else’s water issues (like a leaking shower cubicle or bathtub), the person with the leaky bathroom is responsible. If that water comes from your own apartment, however, like a sink overflowing because you left the tap on for too long, then you’re responsible. The same goes for if there’s heavy rain or water outside and you’ve left your door or window open: you had the capacity to stop the damage from happening and you didn’t, so it’s on you.

The water’s coming from outside the house

In cases where the water is coming from somewhere else, like an upstairs neighbour or generally leaky pipes, then the fault will reside with the origin of the water. If this source is from a common area in an apartment building, such as a pool or indoor garden area, then it’s likely that the strata management/body corporate is responsible for the damage. The same is true for shared spaces as well, such as the space between apartments (like the floor and ceiling).

Where’s my water?

Of course, sometimes the source of water can be hard to determine. For example, you might know that your neighbour’s balcony drains onto yours, but what you may not know is that that’s actually run-off from someone higher up. This is particularly important when there has been heavy rain: just because you can see where the water is before it reaches your place, it doesn’t mean that you know where it’s actually coming from. Water can take a long, strange path to get where it’s going sometimes.

Generally determination of where the fault lies within a shared living space like an apartment building is determined by the strata management. Not only do they serve as a neutral party between property owner disputes, but they also have the ways and means to investigate the source of the water and damage.

This is why it’s important to ensure that proper maintenance is performed on areas where water is likely to pool, especially areas that are prone to blockages such as pipes and drains. Unfortunately it’s hard to know how these systems work until you’re in the thick of it, so it’s best to keep on top of preventative maintenance and hope that everything works out when you need it to. That isn’t just for the outdoor areas either: indoor problems can very quickly become neighbour problems (like leaking taps that might be causing problems down the line as well). Check your strata committee have proper maintenance plans in place, and encourage other residents and property owners to be vigilant and vocal about any problems that they’re experiencing as well. It might seem disproportionate to be encouraging people to report leaky taps, but it’s all fun and games until your entire wall needs replastering because of someone else’s laziness.

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