New Zealand has faced a building crisis. How can you protect yourself?
Most people in New Zealand have heard about "The Leaky Home Syndrome" that has affected many houses constructed during 1994 to 2005 suffering from weather-tightness problems.
The majority of these houses were constructed with plaster exteriors with untreated timber framing and have become unsafe to live in because of mould and spores that have developed in the damp frames. Much of the media hype surrounding leaky homes has died down, however there are still many properties out there for sale that could potentially have leaking issues. As a buyer it is important to know what to look out for so you can avoid buying a leaky home.
The importance of getting a building inspection done prior to purchasing cannot be emphasised enough!
If you are looking at a plaster house, particularly if it is square style with flat roof and no eaves, then you should get a building inspector who specialises in identifying leaky homes. They are usually equipped with thermal imaging cameras that can identify problems inside the walls that would not be visible to the naked eye. A building inspector can only comment on the condition of the property at the time they inspect it. It is important to also take into consideration if there has been particularly dry weather, the moisture readings may come back okay, however this could change with heavy rains. A good building inspector should point out the type of cladding and identify if the property is high risk.
Another indication of previous issues is properties that have been recently repainted. A fresh coat of paint can hide a multitude of sins. While it is understandable that vendors want their home to be presented in the best possible way, it may be that they have repainted to hide an existing issue, particularly water stains and evidence of leaks. It is good to ask the vendors directly or via the agent (preferably in writing) if there have ever been any weather tightness or leaky issues. If you buy a house and later discover it did have problems that were not disclosed then you may have a legal claim against the vendor.
The Department of Building and Housing website have more information available including a Guide to the Diagnosis of Leaky Buildings.