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Buyer Beware: ‘Leaky home’ syndrome

What is Leaky Home syndrome, and why should you be concerned? Read more below.

What is leaky home syndrome?

Leaky home syndrome refers to a house or building that is not fully weathertight and likely to have ongoing concerns with the cladding. In New Zealand, some houses built between approximately 1988 to 2004 with a certain cladding and timber framing are affected by this.

Generally built with a Mediterranean style look using monolithic cladding systems with plaster on polythene or cement sheeting finish. The use of plaster over timber substrate caused cracking in plaster which allows water to enter the cladding system, often unable to dry out on its own as the plaster system has no cavity behind it for airflow. This can cause the timber framing to decay and, in some cases, damage the structure of the building and the exterior needs to be replaced.

Not all plaster homes are ‘leaky homes’, during this time a number were also built with solid block, concrete walls and rendered or with timber framing with a cavity for airflow. Other homes built at that time with mixed cladding may also be susceptible.

How do I know if a house is a ‘leaky house’?

In-depth building or weather tightness reports from a certified building inspector are recommended. In addition to a standard building report, these will have an infra-red scan of each room of the home, showing moisture readings and whether at an acceptable level or not.

Will I be able to borrow against, or get insurance, on a leaky house?

Home insurance does not cover the damage caused by a leaky home as it is not considered a sudden and unexpected event. The damage is caused gradually over time. Lenders are more cautious when it comes to known leaky homes, as they are aware that you will likely need additional funds to fix the issue. When assessing lending on a leaky home, they will also assess whether you have the funds to cover the remediation costs, or the means to service additional borrowing if you were to borrow to fix the issue.

If it’s not confirmed to be a leaky home and you’re wanting to purchase a plaster property they may require for a weather tightness report be completed.