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Who pays for flooring removal and replacement when repairing moisture in the slab?

This article, written by our Queensland Partner Michael Kleinschmidt, first appeared in the June 2023 edition of the QLD LookUpStrata magazine.

Q: Our flooring has been pulled up to repair moisture in the slab. Who pays for the removal and replacement of the flooring? Can we claim this on strata insurance?

My duplex has tiled floors covered by self levelling concrete and hybrid flooring. The hybrid flooring has been pulled up because the concrete slab holds too much moisture. If we have to remove the self-leveller and tiles and a moisture barrier put in place before relaying the hybrid flooring, who is responsible for this cost? Can we claim these costs on strata insurance?

A: The nub of the question is the cause of the water in the slab.

The nub of this question is whether the concrete slab is defective by virtue of it retaining too much water or being exposed to water from outside the lot when it should not be. For example, if the lot is on the ground floor, the owner could investigate whether there is a cause for the moisture which the body corporate is responsible for, i.e. a leaking pipe on common property or an inadequate or absent moisture barrier below the slab.

If the concrete is within acceptable tolerances or there is no evident cause which the body corporate is liable for, then the issue is with the improvement made to the unit in the form of the self-leveling concrete and hybrid flooring. The owner is responsible for that as it lies above the boundary line between the unit and the unit / common property below, which is the midpoint of the concrete slab. From the perspective of the body corporate as the other potentially liable party, I suspect the argument would be that it’s not the body corporate’s responsibility to install a waterproofing membrane inside the lot so that the owner can put down a (moisture sensitive) flooring of their choice. Which way this goes will depend on a sufficient and reliable investigation of what is happening in the lot or common property below, plus some concrete testing.