Building defects that produce water leaks and mould build up are becoming more frequent in high-rise buildings—this owing to the growing popularity of high-rise living.
Mould build-up in today’s buildings also can be attributed to poor ventilation as buildings have grown more airtight and responsive to calls for more fire resistance.
Mould can develop from any moisture source. When it is apparent in toxic levels, health results from mould are severe. Mould exposure is affiliated with anxiety, depression, problems focusing, and sleep loss. Frequent physical symptoms can take the form of runny nose, sore throat, headaches and tiredness. People battling asthma or compromised immune system fare the worst. The effects of mould can be fatal.
Mould can arise when a temperature difference arises between the hot interior and cold exterior of a structure in the wintertime, which can formulate condensation on walls and windows. Condensation and mould can form on bathroom walls and ceilings from hot showers taken on cold mornings – especially when exhaust fans are not utilised. And when windows are closed when no one’s home, or from units that don’t get sun during the day.
Yet in these cases, building designers are not held liable.
Builders can be held liable if the mould arises from design or construction issues. These could include rainwater build-up, inferior building work, exposure of the frame to weather, and water leaks prompted by defective construction work.
Waterproofing or defective works can cause a leak as well.
Homeowners in Victoria have a shield in the form of statutory warranties allowed under the Domestic Building Contracts Act. These necessitate builders and tradespeople to deliver sound work, use quality building materials fit for purpose, complete works delivered on time, use reasonable care and skill and build in accordance with plans and specs.
In Victoria, these warranties apply for up to a decade from the date on which an occupancy certificate is issued. In other states, the limitation timeframe is six years from the date of occupancy certificate issuing.
Builders confront liability under this regime only for issues within their control. If mould grows at a point where the frame is exposed to the elements during building, for example—not when it arises during hot showers on cold mornings. Or there can be issues regarding the source of the blame, as is the case when homeowners may be blamed for faulty maintenance.
In these cases, builders may claim contractual indemnities or contributory negligence, only taking blame for what they caused.
Homeowners in Victoria may make claims under a ‘Water Act liability’ against anyone who contributes to an excessive water flow from one property to another. The damages can pertain to money loss and damage, property damage, or ‘injury to any other person’.
Builders confront liability only for issues under their control and may be able to claim contributory negligence against others who exacerbate the issue. If questions arise, contact a legal representative.