The Master Builders Association (MBA) says local councils are not the only ones at risk of being sued over water damage from high-front building gutters.
It is claimed water overflow from high-front gutters can seep into ceilings and wall cavities of buildings, prompting Lake Macquarie and Cessnock councils to publicly raise concerns.
The MBA's Hunter regional manager, Len Blakeney, says there have been several gutter overflow cases in the past year and individual builders could be liable for damages.
They need to actually be able to do that install and show that they're doing it accordance with the code and the standards," he said.
Architects say gutter risk remains - Sydney Morning Herald
NEW home owners this year potentially face a $75 million repair bill for water damage because guttering systems that fail to meet building codes and standards continue to be widely used throughout NSW, architects have warned.
The Australian Institute of Architects' building advisory service, Archicentre, has calculated that about 25,000 dwellings will be built in NSW this year. About 90 per cent will be constructed using cheap, easy to install high-front guttering systems which in heavy downpours can push water back into the wall cavities of buildings and cause concealed soft timber frames to slowly rot, even if the gutter is kept clear of leaves and other debris.
Insurance does not typically cover the cost of the damage because unless it becomes immediately apparent after a single freak storm, the damage is classified as wear and tear.
The damage bill is a conservative estimate, Archicentre's state manager, Angus Kell, said, because new homes make up only about 35 per cent of the total amount of high-front guttering installed with spring clip systems that contravene continuous overflow regulations. The largest share of the market is replacement guttering on existing homes, where the cost of the damage over the long term is incalculable.
"Non-compliant installation of high-front gutters now appears to be the norm rather than the exception," Mr Kell said.
FAIR trading investigators in NSW operate in a culture of nepotism and bullying and are unwilling to report corruption within their own ranks, according to an internal report.
The report, a "health check" of the compliance division of the NSW Office of Fair Trading, was completed last September by two independent management consultants and has been obtained by The Australian.
It quotes staff in the division as complaining of "an unprofessional workplace culture, inappropriate conduct, a failure to deal with poor performers, nepotism, favouritism and a lack of direction".
The report will add fuel to claims in NSW parliament that the OFT has behaved in a bullying and arrogant fashion towards its clients and left a trail of broken businesses and lives in its wake.
According to the report, by Wendy Klaassen and David Madden, staff in the compliance division "operate within a negative environment fuelled by ongoing and unresolved grievances".
"There has been a lack of sound leadership and planning within the division and little emphasis has been placed on best practice," say the consultants.
"The culture of the division is insular and inward-looking and its progress has been stymied by competing cliques within the division and beyond."
Most alarmingly, the consultants report "staff have said they would be reluctant to report corrupt conduct or other forms of misconduct by staff due to a perception that 'nothing would be done about it'."
A REPORT suppressed by the previous Labor state government has confirmed what many rain-affected homeowners have long suspected - NSW has a guttering problem.
The widespread use of high-front guttering, with inconsistent overflow provisions and inadequate downpiping, is contributing to mould, timber rot and building deterioration that is costing homeowners hundreds of millions each year.
The vast majority of guttering systems commonly used do not meet Australian Standards, and the report - commissioned by the former Fair Trading Minister Virginia Judge but never published - makes more than a dozen recommendations to reform an industry that is ''muddled'', under-trained and non-compliant.
Most telling in the report is an expert inspection of display homes across NSW. Despite these homes being the template for thousands of new dwellings each year, only one of the 35 houses inspected was compliant with the Australian Standard. The report noted that in some of these relatively new display homes, signs of water damage to eaves linings were already apparent, although ''the causes were not precisely quantified''.
Of equal concern was the state of re-guttering on existing buildings, estimated to make up as much as 86 per cent of the market.
Replacing old low-front guttering, which automatically directed water away from the building, with high-front guttering - favoured for its aesthetic appeal and easy installation - could leave a home worse off, the report said, if additional overflow measures were not taken to compensate for the new gutters' limited capacity in handling heavy downpours.
A STATE government office has finally admitted high-fronted gutters can cause water damage in houses.
But the issue is likely to remain controversial because other government departments insist there is no serious problem.
High-fronted gutters are installed in 90 per cent of NSW homes and are favoured over low-fronted ones because they can conceal the roof edge.
But independent construction experts warn that many gutters being installed do not meet Australian standards, resulting in mould, timber rot, termites and the slow deterioration of homes. The cost to the state is hundreds of millions each year.
Successive fair trading ministers have refused to admit that high-fronted gutters pose a serious problem but the Housing Department has revealed it does not use high-fronted gutters on new projects.
''Housing NSW uses low-fronted guttering on all new homes, including stimulus properties, to avoid the problem of water penetration,'' a spokesman said last month in response to questions about water damage at a public housing property in the inner west.
The web of misleading, confusing and contradictory messages about gutter installation dates back at least to 2008, when high-fronted gutters were first linked to water damage.
That year, a circular from the Department of Planning stressed that gutter installation should allow for the continuous flow of stormwater without any ''protrusions or other obstructions'', in line with the Australian standard.
FOUR out of five NSW residents with high-fronted roof guttering have experienced problems including water seeping into their homes, a state government survey has found.
The gutters, which are installed in 90 per cent of homes, were introduced in the 1990s and are favoured for their aesthetic appeal and easy installation.
Construction experts have lobbied the government for years over concerns the gutters, which are frequently installed contrary to industry standards, are contributing to mould, timber rot and building deterioration that is costing the state hundreds of millions each year.
Successive fair trading ministers have denied any serious problem but in response to their concerns, the Minister, Virginia Judge, ordered a public survey on high-fronted guttering last year.
However, the department refused to release the results due to the small sample size.
The survey results, obtained by the Herald under freedom-of-information laws, show that of the 82 per cent of residents who had problems with their guttering, nearly three-quarters had damage to their homes as a result.
One resident wrote: ''We previously had low-front gutters but these were damaged in a storm and our insurer replaced them with high-front gutters. We were not given a choice.''
Problems reported in the survey included collapsed ceilings, damaged plasterboard and water running down the walls. ''During moderate to heavy rain … a flood of water cascades down an interior wall in the room below. In heavy rain the same problem has occurred in a separate bedroom,'' another wrote.
One home owner even resorted to using an oyster knife to prise open the slots in his gutters to help the overflow, and another respondent spoke of spending more than $2000 having the main pipe to the street replaced and trees removed but that the problem was still unresolved.