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La Niña: Strata Risks and How to Minimise Them

The present La Niña weather pattern may impact Australian strata title buildings. Last September the Bureau of Meteorology declared that a La Niña weather pattern was officially underway.

A typical La Niña season can bring higher rainfall across the country, increased possibility of tropical cyclones, and a longer monsoon season in the far north. This increased rainfall can help reduce bushfire risk, but will increase the likelihood and severity of flooding, not just in tropical Australia, but also in the south.

The last La Niña event stretched from 2010 to 2012 and included intense, devastating and deadly flooding – especially in Queensland, where over two billion dollars’ worth of damage was recorded. There was also widespread and disastrous flooding in Victoria.

Strong winds are also a major factor in La Niña periods with the increased prevalence of cyclones and gale-force storms. Those intense winds not only cause severe damage on their own, but can also raise tide levels causing coastal and low-lying seawater inundation, and erosion.

All of Australia will feel the effects of this weather system, however those effects will vary from north to south.

The northern tropics will likely see, not only more water, but also more potentially catastrophic winds, with an increased chance of cyclones and monsoons. In the south – even as far as Tasmania – river systems can potentially peak and experience slow or flash flooding – often in the days after the severe weather front has passed, as rivers fill with run-off from catchment areas.

If you are a strata property owner it’s vital you ensure you have done everything possible to mitigate any damage that may come about from La Niña.

What you can do to minimise La Niña risks

Rainfall and hail

  • Thoroughly check and clear gutters, drains, downpipes and balconies.

  • Replace any deteriorating silicon on the windows and roof.

  • Keep contents and appliances out of areas that are at risk of flooding.

  • Check roofs, especially on older buildings, for waterproof capabilities to prevent seepage into ceiling and wall cavities. Ensure tiles and roof sheeting is secure - these can not only cause leaks, but also dangerous flying debris in high winds.

  • Check stormwater and flood inlet grates in basements and underground car parks to ensure they can handle sudden deluges.

  • Encourage residents and businesses in units at, or below, ground-level to lift valuable items and electrical equipment off the floor.

  • If there is any possibility of major flooding, strata committees should at least know where they can access sandbags in an emergency, if they don’t have barriers on hand already.

  • Hail storms can cause significant damage, cracking or even break skylights and windows, leading to rain damage to internal areas. Large hailstones can crack roof tiles, dent aluminium roofs and air conditioner units, block gutters, and result in water escaping into the building. Regular cleaning of gutters can help to minimise this.

High winds

  • Cut back trees and overhanging branches if they pose a risk of falling and damaging the building.

  • Advise the building’s occupants to secure any items on balconies or in yards.

  • Cyclones and gale-force winds can put building structures under strain, particularly windows. They can also cause secondary damage by dislodging trees and branches, and turning loose items into dangerous missiles.

What you should do after La Niña strikes

Once the danger has passed, strata committees or their representatives should conduct a thorough inspection of all public areas on the property. A comprehensive report should be compiled, no matter how minor the damage.

The report should detail:

  • Date and time

  • The adverse weather conditions

  • Damage caused by the weather event

  • Take photos of the damage before repairs commence

  • Previous condition of damaged area of the property

  • History of maintenance or upkeep if applicable

  • Any immediate rectification required and undertaken

  • Expert assessments

  • Plans for future repairs

  • Mitigation strategies that have been put in place or will be put in place to prevent further damage.

The more detailed and extensive the report is, the easier it will be for insurers to advise on the potential recovery of costs to remedy the damage.

This article was brought to you by CHU


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