Managing Water Leaks in a Strata Property

After already enduring unprecedented wet weather events throughout 2022, Queensland is again bracing for widespread drenching rain and flooding due to a rare triple La Nina event. This is in addition to the regular QLD storm season that traditionally runs from October to March but in recent years has been starting earlier and ending later.

Even with all our modern construction tools, unfortunately buildings still leak, with water damage being one of the most common causes of strata insurance claims.

As QLD enters another period of likely continuous torrential rain, here is some guidance on how to handle building leaks with a focus on water that enters a building from its roof, walls and windows.

It is important to remember that your insurance company will not help you or your body corporate stop the leak.

The insurer’s role is to pay for financial losses specifically covered under your body corporate’s insurance policy. In general, insurers cannot advise whether damage will be covered until the cause of the leak is identified and stopped – and the final damage is known.

The following 4 steps should be followed before any discussions about insurance take place.

1. Identify the source of the water leak

You’ve just noticed a dripping roof or wet patch of carpet – you need to identify specifically where the water is coming in. Check the walls, windows and doors nearby, and ceilings above.

Whether or not the leak is an individual lot owner responsibility or a body corporate responsibility will depend on where the leak originated and what format plan your property is registered under.

Generally, A building format plan (BFP) usually applies to multi-story unit complexes whereas a standard formal plan (SFP) will usually apply to a townhouse complexes.

If you are unsure whether your building is a building format plan (BFP) or standard format plan (SFP) – contact your body corporate manager who can easily provide this information.

Common sources of water ingress into buildings & responsibility guidance

Roof (flashing, skylights, perished silicon etc)

In a building format plan (BFP):

  • The body corporate is responsible for nearly all roofing issues
  • Owners are responsible if their installations are causing the leak (solar panels, satellite dish etc)


In a standard format plan (SFP):

  • The owner is responsible for the roof of their lot


Blocked gutters/downpipes

In a building format plan (BFP):

  • The body corporate is responsible for nearly all gutters/downpipe issues
  • Owners are responsible if a tree in their private yard/courtyard has caused the gutters to become blocked


In a standard format plan (SFP):

  • The owner is generally responsible for gutters and downpipes.
  • The body corporate may be responsible for shared gutters that span multiple lots


Leaking windows/doors

In a building format plan (BFP):

  • Doors and windows which open onto a balcony, patio, courtyard or side access path are generally the owner’s responsibility to maintain.
  • Body corporate is generally responsible for doors and windows which open directly into a common property area


In a standard format plan (SFP):

  • The owner is responsible for doors and windows


Balconies filling with water – inadequate or blocked drainage

  • Balconies are the responsibility of lot owners. Owners must ensure that the balcony is able to drain freely and that any drains are clear and not blocked with leaves or debris.


Courtyards filling with water

  • Courtyards are the responsibility of lot owners, including the way the courtyard drains and manages stormwater.
  • Over time courtyard soil can become compacted and can stop accepting rainwater to soak into the ground. This may be corrected by aeration of soil, or installing garden areas instead of hard surfaces (paving).
  • Owners are responsible for their courtyards but may require body corporate approval to make changes to these areas.


Water seeping through joints under exterior walls

In a building format plan (BFP):

  • Exterior walls between the lot and a private balcony, patio, courtyard or side access path are generally the owner’s responsibility to maintain.
  • Body corporate is generally responsible for exterior walls which form the boundary between private areas and common property areas


In a standard format plan (SFP):

  • The owner is responsible for exterior walls


2. Stop the leak if you can

If you have identified the leak, try to stop the source of the leak if it is appropriate to do so.

For example, if water is coming in through your balcony door frame, if it is safe to do so you can sweep away the water from the door. If you think the leak may be coming from the upstairs lot – check with the upstairs neighbours in case they don’t realize they have a water leak somewhere in their apartment.

In many cases you will not be able to stop the leak until the rain has stopped, in that case – take actions to mitigate the loss or damage.


3. Mitigate loss or damage

Owners and residents should always take any possible steps to mitigate or reduce loss or damage.

For water leaks, the following steps should be taken as soon as possible:

  • Move furniture away from the leak area
  • Unplug any nearby appliances and move them
  • Remove curtains/blinds that might become water damaged
  • Put out buckets to catch water instead of letting it hit the floor
  • Lay down towels to act as a barrier to incoming water and change them frequently


If water is coming through or near electrical devices (light switches, downlights, powerpoints) – go to your switchboard and switch off those circuits to prevent electrical damage.

For fitted carpets, these can usually be towel-dried with pressure (e.g. walking on a dry towel to soak up moisture).

If the carpets are very waterlogged, they can be pulled up and back to allow the underlay and the carpet to dry out. It is often cheaper to re-lay existing carpet that has been pulled back, rather than to replace it.

There are companies that specialise in carpet drying – if carpets are wet they should be dried as soon as possible to prevent mould.

These actions are often very inconvenient, but are a very important part of managing a water leak into your home.

4. Be patient (especially if the rain is ongoing)

It is important to remember that if rain is ongoing, you may not be able to get a contractor to attend to the cause of the leak until the rain stops.

Especially with roof leaks (the most common cause), a roofing plumber cannot safely get onto the roof and then treat the problem if it is still raining (or raining on and off).

This type of leak will generally need to wait until the rain stops, so that the problem can be repaired properly in dry conditions, and then have the fix tested.

Roofers and plumbers are in high demand after rain events, so there may also be a delay to wait for a suitable contractor to assist you.

2022 has also been a particularly bad for property repairs and lodging/processing insurance claims.

A series of obstacles have constrained insurers and tradespeople as they battle hundreds of thousands of claims stemming from a string of some of the worst catastrophes ever experienced in Australia.

For more info check out our article – Why Is My Roof Still Not Fixed? – Insurance & Maintenance Delays Explained 


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