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La Niña rainfall warnings that may impact Australian strata title buildings

The present La Niña weather pattern may impact Australian strata title buildings.

Last September the Bureau of Meteorology declared that a La Niña weather pattern was officially underway.

What is La Niña?

La Niña is characterised by higher rainfall across the country, increased possibility of tropical cyclones, and a longer monsoon season in the far north. This increased rainfall can help reduce bushfire risk, but will increase the likelihood and severity of flooding, not just in tropical Australia, but also in the south.

Meanwhile, La Niña’s counterpart, El Niño, is typically responsible for hotter, drier conditions in southern Australia, and shorter wet seasons in the north. There is a greater risk of bushfires and droughts with El Niño, the likes of which we saw in 2019 and 2020.

What impact can we expect on strata title buildings?

The last La Niña event stretched from 2010 to 2012 and included intense, devastating and deadly flooding – especially in Queensland, where 75% of the state was affected and a disaster zone declared. Over two billion dollars’ worth of damage was recorded in Queensland alone[1].

That same season also saw widespread and disastrous flooding in Victoria, and while Melbourne escaped the full impact, inner-urban homes and businesses in a number of regional cities, including Ballarat were flooded.

Widespread increases in rainfall can fill dams to overflowing, cause rivers to rise and burst their banks and levees, put stress on stormwater systems, set off land and mud-slides, require populations to evacuate, and lead to water inundation and building subsidence.

Strong winds are also a major factor in La Niña periods, due in part to the increased prevalence of cyclones and gale-force storms. While most wind damage from severe cyclones will be felt in the tropical north of Australia, the remnants of these weather fronts, such as torrential rain, can be felt thousands of kilometres inland, and as far south as Melbourne, as was the case with Cyclone Yasi in the La Niña year of 2011.

Those intense winds not only cause severe damage on their own, but can also raise tide levels causing coastal and low-lying seawater inundation, and erosion.

Who will be impacted?

All of Australia will feel the effects of this weather system, however those effects will vary from north to south. The northern tropics will likely see, not only more water, but also more potentially catastrophic winds, with an increased chance of cyclones and monsoons.

In the south – even as far as Tasmania – river systems can potentially peak and experience slow or flash flooding – often in the days after the severe weather front has passed, as rivers fill with run-off from catchment areas. Wind can also be more intense and sustained for longer periods, and although not generally as destructive as the cyclones of the north, they still have the capacity to cause major problems to buildings and infrastructure.

La Niña’s effects can also affect broader populations. Flooding (unlike bushfires, which generally occur outside major urban centres) can cause damage right in the centre of a city – whether that’s from rising river levels or from sudden and torrential rain overwhelming the rainwater and stormwater infrastructure such as roofs, gutters, drains and sewers. This means that medium and high-density urban areas with buildings typically managed by strata committees are actually more at risk in a La Niña event than in the drier El Niño patterns.

The potential for flooding, inundation and water damage means that those responsible for the maintenance and safety of strata buildings must ensure that they have done everything possible to mitigate any damage that’s likely to come about from the La Niña weather patterns.

Rain and flooding

  • Gutters, drains, downpipes and balconies should be thoroughly checked and cleared of any obstructions regularly so rainwater can drain.
  • Replace any deteriorating silicon on the windows and roof.
  • Keeping contents and appliances out of areas that are at risk of flooding.
  • Roofs, especially on older buildings, should be checked for waterproof capabilities to prevent seepage into ceiling and wall cavities. Ensuring tiles and roof sheeting is secure as these can not only cause leaks in torrential rain, but also dangerous flying debris in high winds.
  • Stormwater and flood inlet grates in basements and underground car parks should also be checked to ensure that they can handle sudden deluges.
  • Residents and businesses in units at, or below, ground-level should be encouraged to lift valuable items and electrical equipment off the floor that they own that is not covered under the Strata policy, and should also protect common property of the strata corporation.

If there is any possibility of major flooding, strata committees should at least know where they can access sandbags in an emergency, if they don’t have barriers on hand already.

High winds

  • Cyclones and gale-force winds can cause damage on their own, by putting building structures under strain, particularly windows. They can also cause secondary damage by dislodging trees and branches, and turning loose items into dangerous missiles.
  • Trees and overhanging branches should be cut back if they pose a risk of falling and damaging the building, and all building occupants advised to secure any items on balconies or in yards.


  • Summer and autumn hail storms can cause significant damage, with Sydney being particularly susceptible. While the effects of hail storms are often superficial, they can still crack or even break skylights and windows, leading to rain damage to internal areas.
  • Hailstones that are large or sizeable in number can crack roof tiles, dent aluminium roofs and air conditioner units, block gutters, and again cause problems with water escaping into building structures. Regular cleaning of gutters can help to minimise this.

After a major weather event

Once the danger has passed, strata committees or their representatives should conduct a thorough inspection of all public areas on the property. If any damage, no matter how minor, is identified, a report should be undertaken detailing:

  • Date and time
  • The adverse weather conditions
  • Damage caused by the weather event
  • Take photos of the damage before repairs commence
  • Previous condition of damaged area of the property
  • History of maintenance or upkeep if applicable
  • Any immediate rectification required and undertaken
  • Expert assessments
  • Plans for future repairs
  • Mitigation strategies that have been put in place or will be put in place to prevent further damage.

This report should be as comprehensive as possible and include photos of the damage and, if they exist, any photos of the area prior to the weather event for comparison. The more detailed and extensive the report is, the easier it will be for insurers to advise on the potential recovery of costs to remedy the damage.

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