Property investment tip 34: Beware of buying a property with a flat roof

Beware of buying a property with a flat roof

A roof top is flat or slanted. Before buying a property with a flat roof, obtain a building inspection report detailing the state and age of the roof.

Repairing a damaged roof is one of the most costly expenses for a property investor.

Think twice about buying a property with a flat roof

Two of my properties have flat roofs. The opportunity of owning a property with a flat roof is that, with council approval, you can construct another level or build a loft. This adds more value to your property and creates more space.

However, rainwater gets trapped on flat surfaces. If there is no slant on the roof, water cannot move. Only sunlight can evaporate the excess moisture.

Water continuously trapped on the roof causes leaks, mould and damp, and at worst, weakens the structure of the building. This happened to my apartment in Sydney.

Arguably, a flat roof on new buildings is made of higher quality and weather-resistant materials. But, most properties on sale are not new; this is the problem. Houses on sales are often decades old.

It’s hard and expensive to locate very small holes in a roof. Once a hole has been seal, you’ll had to wait for the rain to know if the repair work was successful.

Fixing the roof: It’s not your decision

Individually, you cannot decide how or when a damaged roof should be repaired, or how much budget should be allocated, if you own a property in a building or complex that is managed by a Body Corporate (or Owners Corporation).

The Body Corporate is a ‘group’ of all the landlords who own a unit in the same building or complex. They are responsible for the daily property management and maintenance of the building and the communal areas.

The Body Corporate decides which major repair works are approved and proritised.

If the Body Corporate approves repair work that does not directly affect your property, you’re still obliged to pay part of the costs. The funding for any repair work is taken from your monthly, quarterly or annual levies.

The seven year roof leak: My bad experience

One of my apartments in Sydney had a roof leak for seven years. The professional tradesmen stated the flat roof needed structural repairs. However, my Body Corporate opted for the cheapest ‘solution’: placing a waterproof seal on the external rooftop and the ceiling inside my apartment.

This ‘solution’ failed three times. No one from the Body Corporate wanted to invest money in repairing the roof because the leak was not directly damaging their apartments. I lost two long-term tenants over this dispute.

Last year, I had enough. I, along with three other landlords, filed an official complaint and a legal threat against the Body Corporate Committee for failure to maintain common property.

In early 2018, the Body Corporate approved the repair work at the Annual General Meeting. Seven years ago, the repair work cost $30,000. Today, the repair costs $90,000. Time wasted costs everyone more money.

Beware of rooftop gardens

In a trend towards bringing green spaces to urban areas, the rooftop garden of many new apartment buildings now have planter boxes and artificial turf.

I would advise you against placing planter boxes and artificial turf on your rooftop.

‘Fake grass’ looks great for the first few years, until the quality deteriorates. Worn or damaged artificial turf absorbs water. Moisture trapped beneath the turf weakens the roofing material, and can cause leaks over the long-term. This is what happened to my apartment.

Built-in planter boxes also cause the same damage. Water is trapped in the soil when there are no gutters on the planter box, or the gutter is damaged. Trapped water can seep through the roof. This is also what happened to my apartment. Think twice about buying a property with a flat roof.

So, do you think buying a property with a flat roof is bad idea?

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Hi, my name is Jude Little, also known as ‘Big Sister Jude’. I am a comic artist and a property investor. I bought my first property at 26 and ended up owning four properties in Australia and the UK by 30. I created this blog to help millions of people, like my little brother and little sister, who want to climb the property ladder but lack the knowledge and confidence on how to get there.

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