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Moisture & rising damp

JHB Managing Agents
Water, water everywhere – but who pays?

Water is vital for life, and is of course essential for cooking, hygiene and many leisure activities. However, uncontained water in a property can cause significant issues, whether it finds its way in suddenly, or gradually over time. In fact, water is one of the most destructive elements you may encounter as a property owner or tenant.

The costs of repairing water damage typically far exceed the costs of preventing such damage in the first place. When damage does occur, many people’s first question will be whether they are covered by insurance.

How to spot moisture ingress

One of the most common signs of moisture getting into a property is rising damp. Rising damp is caused by capillary action within masonry – the same effect that causes a liquid to ‘climb’ up a paper towel. The moisture can come from within the property (often in the form of condensation in poorly ventilated bathrooms) or from outside.

Rising damp is easy to recognise – it has many ‘symptoms’. These can include damp patches on walls or ceilings, or a general ‘musty’ smell. Other tell-tale signs include ‘blisters’ in paint, and wooden skirting boards starting to rot or crumble.

Specialists can measure the salt and moisture content in the walls, and provide precise indications of the extent of the problem.

Where does the water come from?

Moisture ingress can be the result of any one of a number of factors – or a combination thereof. Lack of drainage due to concreting over of gardens and other bare earth can cause water to collect, while groundwater will also rise after prolonged or unusually heavy rain. However, this is often only a seasonal problem.

Blocked or missing gutters can also lead to water accumulating, as can damaged or leaking pipes. Less obvious causes may include underground streams or building shadows preventing the sun from drying up pools of rainwater.

It’s clear that rising damp and moisture ingress are common problems, and can cause real hassles. They can also lead to disagreements between neighbours, where a problem originating in one property affects (for example) the apartment below.

Insured or not insured – that is the question

Faced with a repair bill caused by rising damp or moisture ingress, an understandable reaction would be to reach for your home or building insurance policy to read the small print. This is where the bad news comes in: rising damp and moisture ingress are generally classed as an ongoing or gradually operating cause of damages (also known as ‘wear and tear’), and insurance policies typically don’t cover this kind of damage.

They equally tend not to cover inherent defects or design flaws, some of the other main causes of rising damp. If, on the other hand, the damp issue was caused by a sudden event, like a storm, it may be possible to successfully claim.

If you do make a claim, it’s important to have supporting documentation, like a report from the contractor you hire to solve the problem, specifying its cause.

Where the damp has occurred gradually, the chances are that any insurance claim will be unsuccessful. This means that the cost of repairs – and of preventing future rising damp issues – will fall on either the property owner, in a case of Homeowners Associations, or the Body Corporate, in sectional title developments.

The moral of the story is of course to avoid damp issues in the first place, through correct installation and maintenance of damp proofing and plumbing fittings. Giving that rising damp tends to be a gradual problem, it also pays to regularly check for it – the sooner it is detected, the easier and less expensive any remedial action will be. When it comes to damp, it’s important to rise to the challenge sooner rather than later.

Disclaimer: Kindly note that the above article is merely for information, and is not intended to be comprehensive nor to provide legal advice. Solver Property Services, its employees and agents can in no way be held liable for the accuracy or otherwise of the contents of this article, or for the consequences of any action taken or not taken by any person or organisation based on the contents herein.

For more information on this particular topic, please do not hesitate to contact the Solver Property Services team (010 822 2882). Solver Property Services have over 100+ complexes that we manage in and around Johannesburg. We are your preferred managing agents. High-rise buildings, clusters, apartments, we manage it all.

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