Unit and Apartment Building Inspection Reports
Unit living has become far more accepted over the last 20 years, be that for lifestyle, convenience or location. Unit living can incorporate many types of developments including townhouses, villas and community title developments. Many of the recent developments have also been completed in desirable locations and can allow the lifestyle in a convenient location. All of the buildings require general maintenance to varying degrees with either work that is undertaken by the Owner’s Corporation or general maintenance within the unit. The Owner’s Corporation consists of a body of owners and require discussions and agreement from the owners for repairs.
Some disharmony can occur as a result of not understanding the extent of works required or lack of money to complete adequate works. Any substantial works can involve levies and additional fees to complete the essential works. It is usual that there are adequate funds available to undertake normal maintenance, but any reasonable works would require additional levies on the unit owners. Whilst it is not possible to accurately define the extent of repairs, we provide the following as a general overview. Many unit developments now consist of significant multi-storey structures that can also be considered a mini-city within itself. This type of building can incorporate specialist building materials which require a broad expertise on how the building has been constructed. Further, when constructing such a building, it requires engaging many specialist consultants such as Fire Consultants, Structural Engineers, Waterproofing Experts, Pre-Cast Concrete Experts and Electrical Engineers. Due to the height of the building they are often exposed to a much greater wind factor and hence the quality of windows and doors are usually substantially higher than that which would be expected in a smaller development. Further, due to the substantial size of many of these new multi-storey buildings, it is beyond the expertise of most Owners’ Corporations to understand the complexity of the building and what is required in undertaking adequate maintenance. For this reason, it is essential that there are adequate inspections by specialist experts who are engaged by the Owner’s Corporation to undertake the ongoing maintenance of such a structure.
This does not mean that the buildings are defective, but are an entirely different style of construction. It is not reasonable to impose that an old building be upgraded to current Standards. An experienced building consultant can evaluate any defects, or issues, within older buildings and provide suitable information on carrying out adequate remedial works. This is taking into consideration the type of suitable building materials that are compatible with an older building.
Some defects within buildings recently constructed or renovated may be claimable defect against a builder should the building be covered by the Builder’s Warranty period. In determining what is a claimable defect, a site inspection is required to determine the areas of non-compliance with the Australian Standard, as well as the Building Code of Australia. We offer in some cases, a preliminary inspection where the defect can be inspected and determined and a preliminary report can be provided in an attempt to assist in mediation. Should mediation be unsuccessful, then DHBA can undertake a suitable report as required by the Court or Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (NCAT). These NCAT reports are far more detailed and extensive where each defect found must be substantiated and reports are completed in the required standard of the Court and NCAT.
Older Buildings Prior to 1920
This is mainly an older style low height building which would now be in need of substantial ongoing repairs and maintenance. Some of these buildings are provided with flat roofs which would have a history of ongoing water entry or high maintenance and expenditure in the roof area.
Additionally, this type of building would initially have been provided with no fire provision and fire upgrading can be a substantial cost burden. This type of building is also an older style of construction which requires expertise, particularly in the area of waterproofing and dampness, age deterioration of building materials and suitability of alterations.
Some older substantial buildings have been converted to individual units. For these buildings to be converted to units, there is a requirement that adequate Fire Provisions be included. These buildings however may still be subject to typical ageing issues that would be expected for a building of its age.
Unit Buildings 1920 up to 1950
These art deco style buildings and similar are showing general signs of ageing and still require reasonable maintenance. At the time of original construction many of these buildings were called “Flats” which distinguished them for rented accommodation. Some of these grander older buildings, as well as some less grand unit buildings had class distinction where there was a rear tradesman stairs for delivery of milk, bread and tradesman access to the roof. Whilst the main stairwell was often constructed with concrete, the internal floors of the units are in the main timber frame construction. This will allow noise transmission between units and requires additional work if a Fire Upgrade is required.
The buildings generally did not incorporate any fire provisions and are likely to be subject to varying degrees of fire orders. Additionally, this type of building will require ongoing levies for the Owner’s Corporation, as well as internal maintenance.
Unit Buildings 1950 to 1980
This type of building construction generally consisted of brick walls and concrete floors with a tiled roof. Buildings prior to 1974 contain little in the way of fire provisions, such as fire rated doors throughout, as well as fire rated ceilings to the top floor. The buildings in the main are a basic block design and the majority are structurally adequate. Multi-storey buildings did not happen until the 1960s for 2 reasons. Firstly, the technology in concrete improved and multi-storey unit buildings are constructed with a structural concrete frame. Secondly, lifts or elevators became more affordable and provided access to the upper levels. The majority of expenditure would be in the general refurbishment of the internal and external areas. Cracking may be evident to external brick walls, but not all cracks are structural. Spalling of concrete, or concrete cancer, can be a problem. These buildings incorporate varying degrees of fire provisions. In areas where high rise exist, which is classified as over 8 storeys, does not preclude the fact that some fire upgrading may still be required. The main problem with the more recent construction is in the area of waterproofing, particularly to the external balconies. In addition, since the changes to the Building Code of Australia in around 1990, there are many unit buildings which have inadequate soundproofing to the walls, not only between units, but individual rooms within that unit. This has been the cause of many complaints. We are not qualified to provide an acoustic rating to the units within our standard report, however we are able to have a specialist acoustic engineer provide further information, should it be desired. Water penetration can also be a problem due to lack of membranes. Varying dampness can occur in lower garages and most are not a defect. Dampness within the main building or lower garage level can be costly to repair.
Villas and Townhouses
These are becoming popular in the suburbs and areas close to the city. The reasons include less maintenance and generally a newer type of construction than a house. Whilst the type of construction may be similar to a house, typical maintenance must be budgeted for and agreement from other unit holders for repairs and building works.