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Buying your first apartment? - 6 Questions that will help you uncover the most common building defects

Buying a new apartment is an exciting step, whether you're a first-time homeowner or an investor. However, it's important to go in with your eyes wide open, especially when it comes to potential defects that may exist in the building.

By asking these questions, you can gain insights into the potential defects in the apartment building you're considering. It's important to thoroughly investigate these aspects to ensure you make an informed decision and understand any risks involved. Taking the time to address these concerns will help you maintain the value and safety of your new property.

 1. Can you see any signs of defects in the walls, floors, ceilings, and other structural components?

Look for signs of damage, deterioration, or issues that could compromise the integrity of the structure. Examples of defects in building fabric can include efflorescence (salt deposits), peeling paint, settlement cracks, or other visible signs of wear and tear. These may appear as small issues, however they can turn into bigger defects if not addressed.

 2. What material is the external cladding of your building?

Ask about the type of cladding used in the apartment building. Non-compliant lightweight cladding, like aluminium composite panels (ACP) or EPS, can pose a higher risk of fire spreading quickly. Ensure that the cladding meets safety standards. New legislation and rules about cladding have been passed in most states across Australia, and many buildings are now faced with the expensive task of re-cladding. Make sure your building is clad with a compliant material and if not, that plans are in place to rectify it.

3. Are there any signs of water damage in the common areas or apartment?

Find out if there have been any issues with roof leaks, mould growth, blistering paint, rising damp, or cracked walls due to inadequate waterproofing. Understanding the history of these problems can help you assess potential risks.

Plumbing and drainage issues can be quite common, and often start off as small problems but can turn into quite major issues if not addressed. Ask if there have been any instances of blocked drains, leaking pipes, or sewage backups. These issues can cause structural damage and pose health risks to residents.

4. How old is the wiring in your building?

Obtain as much information as you can about the electrical system in the apartment building. Electrical faults are often caused by old wiring. Ask if there have been any problems with power outages, faulty wiring or electrical fires.

5. How long has it been since the building roof has been inspected?

A well-maintained roof is essential for the overall integrity of the building. Ask about the condition of the roof coverings. Find out if there have been any past issues with water leaks or structural damage resulting from poor installation, inadequate materials, or lack of maintenance.

6. How will my strata insurance be affected by defects?

The good news is that your building can still be insured even if it has some defects. Flex Insurance will consider the severity of the defects, the age of the building, any outstanding legal action and any scheduled remediation plans to fix the defects.

The last question to ask prior to purchasing your apartment is who the insurance provider for your residential strata insurance? Residential strata insurance is compulsory in most states and territories in Australia. Find out who you are covered with and what you are covered for?

At Flex Insurance, our tailored residential strata insurance allows you to select the cover you need. You can simply enter your address into our online quote form, and we can quickly let you know what cover options are available for your strata insurance or ask an insurance broker to consider Flex as an option when comparing policies.

Asking these questions will help you feel confident about your apartment purchase and ensure you are prepared to address any defect issues as part of your initial budget. It will also help you avoid any costly surprises down the track.

Consider getting an independent building inspection – whether it is specifically for your apartment or a shared building inspection by all the other owners in the complex. A professional building inspection will help identify any issues that may not be visible to the untrained eye. Being aware of defects is a good thing, it means you and your neighbours in the building can actively work towards addressing them before they become major.

Having a defects remediation plan will be favourable when obtaining your building insurance.