Body Corporates & Building Defects

building defectsIn the June issue of Strata Voice there’s an interesting article “Is Strata Title Keeping Up With Higher Density” presenting research by City Futures Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.

The research reveals 72% of those surveyed had experienced one or more building defect. That figure becomes 85% for buildings built since 2000.

These figures are similar to what I’ve read in body corporate records here in Queensland. Body corporates and building defects go together like peanut butter and jelly.

What is a building defect?

Building defects are physical problems with the infrastructure or finish of part, or in some cases all, of a building. They can manifest as water leaks, electrical faults, leaking water pipes, bad smells, excessive machinery noise, and so on and so on.

The key definer of a building defect is the problem resides in the building itself.

In the City Futures research study mentioned above the following building defects were identified:

building defects

That’s a lot of problems.

Who Is Responsible For Building Defects?

If you lived in a house and it suddenly developed a water leak then, as the owner, you would be responsible for fixing the own leak.

It’s no different in a body corporate; the owners are responsible for fixing building defects. If the defect is in a lot, that lot owner is responsible. If the defect is in common property the collective owners, or the body corporate, is responsible.

And that’s where it gets a bit more complicated. Quite a lot of owners have difficulty with identifying boundaries between common property and the lot.

Then there’s always the question of where does the defect originate. For instance a flooded apartment on level two might be flooded by a burst pipe on level three or on common property. Responsibility lies with whichever property the defect stems from.

Building Warranties

Whilst some building defects develop over time, such as concrete cancer or a leaking water membrane, the majority of building defects arise because of the design of the building, the construction process or the materials used.

The good news is construction defects are covered by the Builders warranty. Category 1 defects, or structural defects, are warranted for six years and eight months. Category 2 defects, or cosmetic defects, are warranted for six months.

The body corporate committee is responsible for reporting building defects on common property to the builder.

Each individual lot owner is responsible for reporting the building defects within their own lots.

If warranty periods have expired then responsibility falls back to the lot owner, or collective lot owners.

Building defects that stem from the materials used are more complicated. The supplier of the materials is usually responsible in some way, however that is a matter between the builder and the supplier.

Unfortunately problems arising from poor design are usually there to stay.

The Real Problem With Building Defects

Looking back at the City Futures research above, of the 85% who noted building defects in their buildings a whopping three quarters said those defects have never been fixed.

And that’s the real problem with building defects. All that clear cut responsibility is all well in good in theory but a lot murkier in practice. Establishing who is ultimately responsible can be a long involved process.

The issues are further compounded by the legislative processes of body corporates. Decisions are made by committees who meet infrequently. Quotes must be obtained prior to any work being undertaken and the committee must at all times work within spending limits.

It is not uncommon to see building defects drag on for years. Particularly when it comes to water penetration, the most common defect experienced. It can be very difficult to determine where a water leak is coming from and what will fix it.

Particularly if that solution is costly, which sometimes it is. Collective lot owners may baulk at spending many thousands of dollars to fix a water leak or other issue which is experienced in only one lot.

Disputes around building defects, and what should be done about them, are common and usually costly.


Building defects happen in all buildings but especially in complex buildings like apartment buildings.

They don’t necessarily need to be too much of an issue. The severity of the problem and the responses of those to whom it affects will make the most difference.


A little knowledge can go a long way

I see so many stressful and frustrating issues in body corporate records that result from simple misunderstandings it hurts my head. If I could do one thing to help it would be to teach everyone the basic rules, so they can avoid all these dramas.

With that in mind I've put together a short eBook that sets out the basics everyone owning in a body corporate really should know. It won't make those big issues go away, but it will give you a firm grounding from which to communicate.

It's completely free, so please, download it now!

Download Now


  1. Denis WHILLANS says:

    I am chairman of a body corporate of 16 apartments . They are 15 months old, during this period the automatic garage door has constantly malfunctioned . Should the body corporate be responsible for this door or is the developer liable to supply us with a door that is in perfect working condition not one that is constantly inoperable

    • Hi Dennis

      I think it would be covered in the building warranty but it’s not a category 1 defect. For other defects the warranty period may have expired.

      Was the malfunction reported to the builder and have they taken action previously to rectify? If they have you may still have a claim. If not and its been repaired by the body corporate then maybe not.

      Have a conversation with Queensland Building and Construction Commission. They are the place to get building defects rectfied.

  2. Stewart Houghton says:

    I have bought into a new apartment block. The apartment above me which is is two bedroom apartment with about 5 or 6 people living in it has a wooden floor. The noise they make is disturbing. I have complained to the building manager and developer but they say that the floor conforms to the building regs in Brisbane. The manager has also spoken to the family about the noise but unfortunately it has not stopped. What can I do if anything. I appreciate the families position with such a big number in a small space but I also have to live there. What can I do?

    • Hi Stewart

      Unfortunately there isn’t a lot you can do if the flooring meets body corporate and building regulations. Check your by-laws to see what they say about hard flooring.

      From a legal perspective it comes back to “interference”. Have a look at this article Q&A by Hynes Legal.

      Keep talking to people is your best bet. Talk to the family, explain your issues. If it’s moving furniture that’s the issue maybe ask if they can put felt pads under the stuff.

      Its a frustrating situation.


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  2. […] If you’re buying and the body corporate is 6 – 12 months old, do get a search. A lot can happen in that first 12 months, particularly with regard to building defects. […]

  3. […] makes a lot of difference. For instance, say a lot developed an ongoing water leak, the most common body corporate defect. It’s enormously beneficial for the lot owner to have the issue declared a body corporate […]

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  6. […] strata schemes it can be any number of things from major building defects, through endless disputes and poor management to the far more common spiralling financial […]

  7. […] If you’re buying and the body corporate is 6 – 12 months old, do get a search. A lot can happen in that first 12 months, particularly with regard to building defects. […]

  8. […] happen. Buildings leak (quite often actually) get concrete cancer or any number of […]

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