Tom owned a two level, three-bedroom house with monolithic cladding which formed part of a cluster of units which were part of a body corporate.
One day, Tom’s tenant contacted him about a leak that had sprung through the ranch slider in the lounge, following a storm. When Tom inspected his unit, he also found water damage to the ceiling directly below the bathroom. Two years ago, Tom had a leak to the same area as a result of water coming through the shower inlet pipe. He sealed the pipe to prevent further damage. Tom made a claim with his insurer for repairs to the ceiling and window trimmings.
Tom’s insurer appointed building surveyors to assess the water damage. The assessors found a large crack in the cladding above the ranch slider that was letting the water in. They also observed water damage to the ceiling where black and pink mould had formed.
The insurer declined Tom’s claim. Tom’s policy did not cover gradual damage from water entering the unit from outside. The policy only covered damage that was unseen because of a leaking internal pipe. Tom disagreed. He believed the damage to his house was due to an accident. Tom’s view was that water entered through the roof, suddenly and unexpectedly due to bad weather. To support his claim, Tom provided a letter from his tenant observing the house had no previous leaks.
Tom complained to FSCL.
We agreed with the insurer. We did not think that the leak was caused by a sudden event. On assessing the expert evidence from Tom’s builder and the insurer, it was clear there were longstanding issues with the maintenance of the cladding which had been allowing water to enter Tom’s unit for some time. Tom was advised to contact Weathertight Services, part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, to assess the weathertightness of his unit as a whole.
We also found that the sealant around the shower had not been maintained. This allowed water to penetrate through the shower and into the ceiling. This damage was not caused by damage to an internal pipe and so Tom could not claim for it under his insurance policy.
Tom was disappointed with our preliminary view. However, Tom accepted that he did not have further evidence to support his claim. He decided to raise the leaky home issue with his body corporate.
Weathertightness – or leaky home – issues are often not covered by insurance policies. Monolithic cladded houses are considered to be inherently high risk, and need to be well maintained to avoid water seeping into the house and unable to evaporate.
Consumers should read their insurance policies carefully, and seek assistance from Weathertight Services if they are concerned about the weathertightness of their property or before they consider buying properties with monolithic cladding.