Treat concrete cancer when it becomes apparent
Remedial Building Services
Chris Jakovljevic
13 Sepember 2012

I was reminded this week of the need to fix structural issues as they become apparent and to not delay maintenance. I was discussing the importance with a potential client who believed that fixing concrete cancer was as simple as removing the drummy concrete and rendering over the exposed area.

I explained to them that this was a myopic view and one which would cost them more money in the short and medium term. They didn't want to agree, arguing that no immediate action was necessary to rectify the underlying issues I had explained.

When they said this, I was reminded of the old expression which I will paraphrase here to make my point:
"In not making a decision, you are choosing to make a decision." Basically, when you fail to make a choice about something, time and circumstance will make the choice for you. This premise holds true when it comes to structural repair issues too.

Treat Concrete Cancer When it Becomes Apparent

Using Concrete Cancer as an example
Take the example of Concrete Cancer. Not only is it ugly and destructive but it is potentially dangerous. But what is Concrete Cancer when you boil it down?  In simple terms, it represents the visible manifestation of underlying structural issues such as rusting reinforcement, water leaks and structural degradation. This may not at first seem to worrisome, but in fact it is.

What you see on the surface as your concrete flakes and bubbles (or as leaching stains become apparent) may seem worrisome only. However, this concrete hides a more sinister problem such as water ingress and rusted reinforcing which will continue to worsen with time. Ignoring it, will not make it go away. If anything, in ignoring it, or in treating the visible signs only, you are in the long term only going to increase your maintenance costs. Rust will continue to eat away at your steel which has now become exposed - whether or not it is in direct contact with water - and thus sap the structural integrity of the building. It will also cause other cracks in your building which may allow water to leak in to the internal cavities causing eater damage.

Time and time again, we have seen examples where clients have delayed making a decision on repairing their building issues, only for them to realise (to late) that this very delay ends up costing them tens of thousands (sometimes more) of dollars more than it would have if they had corrected the entire issue - not just the signs - early in the piece.

My advice is this; Whether it is your building, your health or a safety issue, take steps to rectify the problem as soon as it becomes apparent. It will ensure that your building will be around a lot longer, and will cost you less to maintain moving forward.

Q&A: Concrete cancer and informing all lot owners
Look Up Strata
24 November 2015

I am the treasurer of a small block with a potential for concrete Cancer. The other office bearers wish to only advise the executive committee and defer any further investigation for 4 years, and not advise the external owners at this time.

My Question is when does the executive committee cease to act in good faith for all owners and not just a few of the executive committee?

Concrete cancer is classed as a building defect and therefore needs to be disclosed to insurers as part of the owners corporations Duty of Disclosure.

In accordance with section 13 of the Insurance Contracts Act 1984 A contract of insurance is a contract based on the utmost good faith and there is implied in such a contract a provision requiring each party to it to act towards the other party, in respect of any matter arising under or in relation to it, with the utmost good faith.

The duty of utmost good faith among other things requires an insured to disclose all information relevant to the insurer’s decision to accept the risk and this forms part of the insured’s responsibilities under their duty of disclosure.

Concrete cancer is classed as a building defect and therefore needs to be disclosed to insurers as part of the owners corporations Duty of Disclosure. Failure to notify an insurer of a pre-existing defect such as concrete cancer may mean that in certain circumstances the Insurer is entitled to avoid the contract altogether or the Insurer may be entitled to reduce liability in respect of a claim to the amount that would place the insurer in a position in which the insurer would have been if the failure had not occurred or the misrepresentation had not been made.

Each circumstance of disclosure will differ on a case by case basis depending on the circumstances and level of knowledge of the problem for example there is a vast difference between an owners corporation having a defect report which reports on defects like concrete cancer by a qualified professional and an owners corporation who may only suspect there is concrete cancer. It is always recommended when there are suspected defects to a property the owners seek advice from a qualified insurance professional.

Tyrone Shandiman
Strata Insurance Solutions

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