Wednesday, March 28 2018
These hidden risks can turn your cash cow into a cash black hole
Older properties like older cars may be able to be bought at a lower price point and if you can achieve a decent rent could at face value seem to have pretty good cashflow prospects. Like buying the older car though an older property can come with many unknowns which could undermine the property’s cash position.
1. Asbestos contamination risk
Asbestos materials of various types were commonly used in Australian property construction between 1940 and 1990. Asbestos materials were embedded in wall cladding, roofs, gutters, drain pipes, vinyl flooring, electrical wiring thermal insulation, boilers, exhaust pipes, switchboards, thermal insulation and inside fire doors.
The new National Work Health and Safety Act of 2011 requires owners of buildings constructed before 2003 to conduct an asbestos survey. Where asbestos materials are identified, this triggers the mandatory requirement for an asbestos register and asbestos management plan (AMP). Some property owners appear to be unaware of this new obligation.
An asbestos register is necessary to track of asbestos materials remaining (or removed) in investment properties. Asbestos may also be located in inaccessible areas and unfortunately discovered during re-development with sometimes disastrous and costly results. Asbestos materials if disturbed can cross contaminate internal areas of the buildings, requiring evacuation, loss of rent and potential occupant litigation.
Asbestos removal is a legally notifiable project, which can result in extremely costly asbestos removal projects.
2. Electrical switchboard over-loading and fusion risk?
Building electrical cables and switchboards can become over-loaded with tenancy changes and added electrical equipment. The overloading of wiring inside electrical switchboards can remain undetected for many years. Electrical fusion is one of the primary causes of fires within buildings where overheating of electrical switchboards and wiring starts fires.
Further electrical risks can include lack of earth leakage protection (ELP) to reduce the risk of electrocution to occupants. Poor quality electrical installation and modifications over time, can overload electrical switchboards leading to potential fires or equipment failures.
Where electrical maintenance is, inadequate this may void insurance cover, with owners exposed to remediation costs.
3. Fire and life safety non-compliance risk?
Fire and life safety systems for buildings require continuous testing and mandatory certification to confirm the fire detection and protection equipment will function to design when there is a fire.
Where buildings are refurbished this may trigger a mandatory requirement to upgrade the entire fire protection systems to the current Building Code of Australia (BCA) fire standards (This mandatory trigger activates when 50% of the building is refurbished within a three-year period). Upgrading can require new fire sprinklers, fire stair pressurisation, new fire hydrants in fire stairs, smoke hazard management, and in extreme cases additional fire exit stairs.
Upgrading of fire protection systems can incur considerable cost and potential risk and cost of compliance should be calculated before settlement.
4. Structure and façade water proofing risks?
Structural problems can include subsidence of foundations, cracking of walls, concrete cancer, leaking roofs, leaking windows or facades, flooding risk, or low earthquake resistance structures.
Unforeseen property defects can result in major capital cost to correct structural weakness. Building changes and additions to original structure may overload design foundations with movement and consequential structural cracking. Façade deterioration can result in water entry and major internal damage.
In locations, close to flood prone areas, underground basements and car parks may be flooded by back-flow of water through stormwater drains or sewers mains (i.e. Brisbane floods). Property constructed close to rivers beaches and harbours may also be impacted by salt migration and increased risk of rust and concrete cancer of steel reinforcing.
6. Disabled access non-compliance risk?
The 1992 Disability Discrimination Act (Commonwealth) has provided a standard that requires all buildings to provide dignified access with special facilities for people with disabilities (PWD). This has been codified in Australian Standards AS1428.1 as a requirement in new construction under the Building Code of Australia.
Where older buildings are refurbished, a mandatory requirement may be triggered to upgrade the disabled access features to current Australian Standard AS1428.1. This can result where 50% of the building is refurbished within a three-year period. Major capital expenditure could be necessary to provide new entry ramps, wide disabled parking bays, upgrading of lift controls, tactile ground surface indicators (TGSI) and large unisex disabled toilets, on each occupied floor in excess of 500 square metres.
7. Air conditioning life cycle failure risk?
Air conditioning is not a luxury but an essential business component for tenants in modern buildings. Air conditioning systems are not like red wine and improve with vintage, but conversely deteriorate over time. Air conditioning plant and equipment have finite service lives with cooling and heating capacities slowly deteriorating over time. Original design cooling and heating capacities may be under-sized or mismatched to current occupancy loads. Additional air conditioning equipment may be required to meet comfort conditions specified in tenancy leases.
8. Lack of mandatory certification to building codes?
In some cases, where mandatory requirements for development approval, building approval or Occupancy Certification are incomplete this can lead to serious future consequences, including potential litigation from statutory bodies, potential restricted use by fire authorities and major difficulty in future when selling the property and non-compliance issues revealed.
Where non-compliance issues are unrevealed at settlement the obligation to remedy these issues becomes the responsibility of the purchaser. Non-compliance can include incomplete development approval conditions, incomplete Building Code of Australia BCA certification, Incomplete Occupancy Certification or lack of Annual Fire Safety Certification.
Correct research and property selection at the outset can mitigate or remove these risks and ensure you have a compliant property with good tenant appeal. To discuss your investment plans Click here to Book in for a FREE telephone appointment with me..