While balconies are a highly popular feature in apartment buildings, they can sometimes cause major headaches rather than being places of relaxation and enjoyment. This is because they are the most common sites for water leakages on a property. In a worst-case scenario, this leakage can cause the balcony to become unsafe, which is the nightmare of every strata owner. Today, we will discuss why leakages happen, what you can do to prevent them from getting worse and who is responsible for repairs.
Common causes of balcony leakage
Many balcony leakages have their origins in the construction methods used when they were built. One such common issue is incorrect drainage. Ideally, a balcony has a minimal slope to it so that water naturally drains off it without the people using the balcony feeling the slope on a day-to-day basis. More recently, it seems that many balconies are constructed with no slope, meaning that alternative drainage systems need to be in place. If they are not, this can also lead to leakages.
Another frequent issue are faulty, low-cost or incorrectly installed membranes. These can cause ‘ponding’ between the membrane and tiles, meaning that water collects and doesn’t drain. This can damage the membrane, the tiles and the grouting between the tiles, leading to water seeping through. If left untreated, this can lead to the rusting of the interior support beams and concrete cancer.
How to prevent leakages
Unless you are directly responsible for the contractor hired to build your balcony – which is highly unlikely – there is little you can do to prevent these construction errors. However, you can make sure that leakages do not have far-reaching consequences by spotting issues early and reaching out to professionals.
The most common signs are cracked or missing grout, peeling paint, and, of course, water stains and leaks on the balcony’s underside – which is a good reason for why you should chat with your downstairs neighbours every once in a while. If you spot any of these, you should bring it to the attention of your strata committee or strata management and ask them to have a professional assess the issue. As it is likely that all the units in your strata scheme were constructed at the same time by the same contractor, this assessment will also be of interest for the other owners.
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Who is responsible for repairs?
According to Fair Trading NSW, balcony leakages are usually the responsibility of the owners corporation. However, each strata scheme has its own bylaws, so it is highly recommended that you look over them to check what is and isn’t defined as common property in your scheme.
Nonetheless, if your strata scheme has adopted model bylaws from after 1974, it is very likely that balconies are part of common property and thus the responsibility of the owners corporation to repair.