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Bathrooms Leaking in House

I have a rental property that was built in 2006, I have been advised by the real estate agent that both bathrooms are leaking. The main bathroom is a major repair however the insurance agent have denied my claim stating it’s classed as repairs & maintenance therefore no claim can be lodged. The ensuite has now also started leaking causing damage in the adjoining bedroom.
The house is 15 years old but I’m trying to claim faulty workmanship. It’s a bit odd to me that both bathrooms are now leaking.
Can anyone assist me with this.
It’s all a bit overwhelming to me having to deal with the cost invovled.
thank you

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Do you trust your agent?

A business partner told me about the rental property they had in Brisbane when they were living in Sale decades ago, for which the agent regularly had repairs carried out.

When he visited the property, he asked the tenant about all the problems they had had with the property, to which the tenant replied that they had had virtually no problems.

As our son-in-law said to a real estate salesperson some years ago “Aren’t real estate sales people between used cars salesmen and solicitors?”

I would either inspect the property myself or get someone I knew to do so.

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I have had the insurance assessor on the property and they have declined my claim, I have photos of the new damage.
the builder no longer exists just to add to the woes.

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Ouch!
What reasons did the assessor provide?
Hopefully they referenced the policy and are clear. Damage from internal water leaks can be covered. It is typically included but with numerous exclusion conditions, EG not due to a lack of maintenance or neglect, etc.

It may help others to better understand the circumstances, if you are able to share how the leaks have come about as you see it and in which state the property is located.

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Usually what is called defect periods around 7 or so years, depending on the state where you reside. In the Northern Territory, it is six years for structural defects and one year for non-structural defects. This possibly will be classed as non-structural unless the house has moved as a result of its construction causing water to leak.

It is also worth noting that most waterproofing used in showers is usually only guaranteed for 10 years, but should last longer. It is possible that the waterproofing has stopped functioning or something else is leaking (such as blocked pipe causing water to back up into the bathrooms causing the damage).

If it is from say a burst braided/flexible pipe, then these also have a life of about 10-15 years as well.

Unfortunately, if it isn’t claimable under your insurance policy, there might not be much you can do other than arrange the repairs yourself. I do wish I had better news.

One thing when you commission someone to fix the damage, it is important to find out the source of the water and ensure that this is also repaired. Otherwise, you will strike the same problem in due course.

Edit: Have you checked your insurance policy to see what is covered in relation to leaks and water damage (hopefully you have cover under your landlords insurance)? The first step may be to get someone independent to see the cause of the leak to determine if it is covered and also to work out how to move forward.

If you provide the name of the insurer and the cover you have, we might be able to assist.

The other option is was the leak and damaged caused by the negligence of the tenants (e.g. they put something over the drain hole causing water to flow into the house from the bathroom). This might e another avenue to explore as they might be responsible.

Have you inspected the property to see the damage and what may have caused it…or are you relying on others to provide this to you? I would be inspecting the property to see what may have caused the damage and its extent as well.

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The Insurance company is Suncorp
on their report it stated failed waterproofing
I have spoken to a plumber in the area and he has advised it is very common there, so that suggests to me the builders haven’t done their work properly

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Bathroom Waterproofing is typically guaranteed for 10 years. Unfortunately it’s anticipated responsible home owners renovate their bathrooms including stripping out the fittings and tiles at least that often. Which enables the water proofing to be renewed.

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Page 21 of the Landlords Insurance states:

We do not cover:…

  • loss or damage to, or caused by, a leaking shower floor or base, shower cubicle walls, shower glass screening or doors;

As it is the waterproofing that failed, then it is excluded from cover.

Even if it could be proved that the waterproofing was not initially installed properly, it is outside the standard warranty for waterproofing. Your comeback to the original installer would be very limited, (along with trying to prove it is a defective install) and unlikely to be successful.

It is possibly a shame the tenants didn’t know or didn’t report the damage earlier…as it may have reduced your repair costs.

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Also under the 6 year 6 months Builders Commission insurance the defect has to be advised with 3 months of the date the owner became aware.

As @phb notes above Suncorp are only stating what their PDS outlines, and are sticking to their right to use those clauses to disallow the claim.

Is it an unfair term/clause? According to AFCA if it is in the PDS then it isn’t unfair. So if seeking to complain to them the chances of success are likely nil. The ACCC might weigh in on illegal conditions but these clauses seem to be reasonable, but some Legal advice needs to be sought to confirm or deny this is the case.

Insurance buyers beware before accepting a contract before ensuring it meets any possible need you want cover for, if it doesn’t cover then additional protection may be able to be negotiated for a price or possibly sought through a different Insurer. No guarantee that it is possible though.

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Bathroom leak are common in new buildings let alone old buildings. Perhaps you have done well getting 15 years out of them.

The main causes of such leaks are either leaking pipe or leaking waterproof membrane beneath the tiles with the latter the most common. In NSW the building warranty period is 6 years. I don’t know what it is in NT but I’m sure it would have long expired. Again, in NSW, you you cant insure against building waterproofing defects or maintenance works so I’m note surprised at your insurers response.

If its a leaking pipe it could be a quick fix if you can get access to the pipe. If its the membrane, you’ll have to remove the tiles which usually ends up in a big job (possibly renew the whole bathroom) as it sound like you’ve started to realise. There are leaking shower repair specialists who may be able do a band-aid quick fix which is sometimes successful but this approach does not comply with Building Code of Australia and may not last despite impressive guarantees.

My suggestions would be to price up all options and then decide based on budget and how long you want it to last:

  1. ask a plumber to first check for pipe leaks and repair;
  2. ask a shower leak specialist to quote
  3. ask a bathroom company to quote to replace the waterproof membrane.

If you want the long term fix and the pipework is OK, go for the full membrane replacement.

Your agent should be able to arrange all of the above but may charge a fee eg 10%

God luck.

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I suspect that Suncorp and other insurers exclude these so they don’t become the ‘fall guys’ for dodgy waterproofing. Excluding them pushes responsibility back to the installer. …but unfortunately due to time since installation, it doesn’t help you.

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As others have written: the first step is to get the reasons why the leaks occurred. Does the agent or a plumber have a report?
If you cannot access the property or don’t have someone you trust to do so on your behalf then you are at the mercy of the agent (and his cronies).
Your desire to claim faulty workmanship - putting aside the time issue - relies on you being in possession of a plumbing or similar report supporting your views.
Do you trust your tenants? Are they going to stay for a while longer? If so, and assuming you have nobody else in the area that you trust, then you could do what a friend did with a leaky bathroom: she replaced a waterproof membrane. That meant that whatever was the reason for the leak was not fully investigated and a new membrane was laid over all the floor tiles and up the wall to where the tiles ended.
She used a firm called Megaseal in Sydney (I think they are nationwide) and their sealant comes with a good warranty I recall.
This may be the cheapest and quickest solution for you. It takes a short time to do this work and if you’re unable to visit the property, you could encourage the tenants to supervise the work in exchange for a couple of days free rent.

Of course the above is based on the leaks causing the tenants a problem. It is their view and not that of the realtor that should matter to you.

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If this was a surface coating system, it’s not replacing the wet seal membrane system under the tiles and behind items such as vanities, baths etc.

The purpose of the wet seal installed during construction is to act as a final barrier against water penetration. If a report suggests the wet seal has failed, there must be another failure that had allowed water to reach the wet seal.

Both need to be rectified. The wet seal for Class 1 and 10 buildings needs to meet the waterproofing requirements in the BCA and the Australian Standard AS 3740. The repairer will need to provide a compliance certificate.

The membrane system is laid under the floor and wall tiles, as a backup to prevent structural damage. It may be best to arrange for a professional and reliable certifier to provide an assessment of what is required. There may have been structural movement, causing damage to the original wet seal. The recent water ingress may have also caused structural movement or failure. The last issues typically can be difficult to fully assess without lifting flooring or wall panelling.

P.S.
Having read Megaseal’s warranty and T&C it’s not apparent that they meet the explicit requirements of the BCA and AS 3740. Caveat Emptor!

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You are correct. I did not realise the extent of the problem.

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I am being told, the waterproofing membrane has failed and needs replacing. The assessor is looking at it tomorrow. So I wait the thud of the shock wave for the cost involved and then work out how to pay for it.

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Get several quotes from reputable businesses, you likely will find some cheaper than others.

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If it is only the shower cubicle that is leaking, maybe also get a quote to install an acrylic shower base and panels instead of ripping out wall surface finishings such as FC sheeting, waterproofing and tiling and then needing for them to be replaced. They might not be your own preferred choice, but are a good option for a rental property where one is not there to see if there are any problems such as shower leaks or loose tiles… acrylic is also very easy to keep clean and is generally mould resistant, with exception of silicone used to seal any joints.

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While the ‘repair’ may not be optimal, there are a number of companies advertising they can repair the leak. From reading it appears they ‘squirt’ a resin that essentially forms its own pan under the tiles as well as filling the holes in the grout.

The devil is in the detail about their reputations, references, guarantees including the fine print and finer print, and how long they have been in business if one needs to do a recall after a few years. Of course having been in business for a century is no guarantee they will still be there next week in these times, so take that for what it might be worth.

It won’t be to Australian Standards, but it might be enough more affordable in the near term where it should not be summarily dismissed because it is not the accepted, traditional way of repairing. Once upon a time mobile panel repairs were also tut tutted at, but they have their place in the business and many are very good and lots cheaper than traditional panel beaters when it is a fairly minor job. We even have a traditional panel shop nearby that also runs a mobile panel repair business. $1,200 in the shop; $785 from the mobile. The mobile job is not 100% the in-shop job but close enough for many consumers. And so it may go with shower leak repairs…

There are options from a traditional fix, a ‘mobile’ repair, or a fibreglass pan replacement, or ?

Good luck getting it sorted in an affordable, effective way.

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Check out the "leaks yourself. I had a rental once when I lived a long way away. I was always being hit by faults in the house; especially on the electrics. In the end I demanded the original electrician and Western Power check out the wiring. An inspection "was supposed to have been carried out and I had no further problems… The house was new and prior to the first tenant it had never been lived in.

@Joanne17 has yet to share further details of where and how the problem has arisen.

A number of alternatives suggested, that might suit the situation have been offered. Should we all be a little cautious in suggesting a solution where we are not in possession of all the relevant facts?

Depending on the method of property construction, duration and extent of the water ingress, there may be residual damage EG dry rot risk in timber. A reliable assessor will come prepared with a moisture meter and a few more tools of trade. Hopefully a reliable assessment of the extent of the leakage. If there are further more serious issues, the best advice should come from the inspection. Hopefully @Joanne17 receives a reassuring report.

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