leaking kitchen roofUp on the roof

As the skies open and the rains fall, some landlords will find out the hard way that roof maintenance needs to be a priority.

The pitter patter of raindrops on a roof can be very soothing – but not so much when the rain is coming in through the ceiling! Yet, every year there are rental properties that fall victim to leaking roofs.

Water, wind and storms can wreak havoc on the best maintained roofs, but those lacking tender loving care can suffer major damage. And the owner can suffer a terrible shock if it’s found that the damage was due to a lack of maintenance.

At RentCover around 55 per cent of all storm damage claims we receive relate to roofs.

It is important for landlords and agents to know that ensuring the property is adequately maintained is a condition of cover for practically all building policies. If the policyholder fails to maintain the premises, they can void the policy and may find any claim where a lack of maintenance caused or contributed to damage or loss, declined.

Maintenance failings can end up being expensive lessons for landlords and property managers. And frequently failing to keep up with the upkeep of the roof is the culprit.

Recently we declined a claim for just this reason.

The owner of a rental in NSW lodged a claim for storm damage to the interior ceilings of the property. When we received the photos, there was a lot of old water staining and mould on ceilings throughout the property. We appointed an assessor to the claim and requested routine inspection reports from the policyholder. When we received the assessor’s report, the tenants confirmed the staining was present when they moved into the property almost a year earlier … and it got worse each time it rained. The routine inspection reports also confirmed that damage had been present for a while and had worsened over time. There was a maintenance note on one of the reports for the owner to have the roof checked, as this is where the leaks were coming from. The owner had never had the work done and, as such, the damage was assessed as being from multiple events, which led to the claim being declined for failing to mitigate a loss and gradual deterioration. By failing to meet their obligations under cover, the landlord had to foot the $7,500 damage bill.

The moral to this story? Whether the roof is tin, tile or thatch, it’s important to get a building inspector in to check its condition:

  • Roof line – wavy/undulating, sagging
  • Roof tiles – chipped, cracked, sliding, missing, faded, deteriorated sealant, bedding/pointing damaged
  • Ridge and valley tiles – loose
  • Ridge capping – cracked, deteriorated
  • Flashing around skylights, pipes and chimneys – deteriorated/torn, buckled, unsecured
  • Colorbond or tin roofs – fastenings missing, dents, scratches
  • Corrugated iron sheets – poor condition, not nailed down
  • Shingles – cracked, torn, bald, missing
  • Valley and eaves guttering – holes, rust
  • Flues and chimneys – structurally unsafe, loose/missing flashing, damaged bricks, cap or cracked joints
  • Gutters – leaks, rust, warped, sagging, holes, poorly attached, clogged, overflowing, missing sections of gutter or downspout
  • Drainpipes – bent, clogged, unsecured/unclipped, unfixed to stormwater drain
  • Soffits and fascia, barges – decay, stains, bent, un-level, incorrectly installed

Landlords and agents can do a few visual checks inside the property to see if there are any obvious issues stemming from above. So eyes up:

Ceiling

  • Leaks or seepage
  • Brown/yellow/copper stains or water marks
  • Bubbling or peeling paint
  • Signs of mould
  • Obvious sagging
  • Cracked cornices or plaster work
  • Inhale – any damp or musty smells

Vents and chimneys

  • Leaks (water dripping through)

Walls

  • Water stains
  • Bubbling, cracking or peeling paint or wallpaper

Tenants can also be an invaluable warning system that there are problems. If they call to say there might be a problem with the roof, it’s a good idea to get a professional (roof plumber, roof tiler, restoration specialist etc.) on site as soon as possible.

A few dollars spent to address minor issues today, could save thousands down the track and safeguard the property’s insurance cover.