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The recent storms in the UAE have left some areas flooded and, as a consequence, many existing building and construction projects have experienced damage that are now in need of repair. The first action for property owners and developers is to dry the affected areas and ensure all stagnant water is removed to eliminate the risk of waterborne infections.
The next course of action is to undertake an investigation into why water entered the building. The effects of the ingress can be traced back to the source, and defects in construction — or design — can then be identified. A qualified professional should undertake a visual inspection in the first instance and when the source is established, a water test can be executed to verify it and an appropriate solution can be specified.
Once the works have been completed, the building will be deemed to be watertight and will prevent water entering in the same location in the future. Another access point is via inadequate drainage provisions; the drainage needs to be sufficient to allow the rainfall to be taken away into the main drainage system and prevent the build-up of water on roads and flat plains of land. It is recommended that developers assess each area they are responsible for, to check for water run off and determine what happens in the event of rains.
If it is found that water will indeed build up to a dangerous level, then the fall needs to be changed or additional drainage installed. If a building is built at the same level or lower than the external ground there is also the high risk of water entering via the entrance thresholds. This should be addressed by qualified professionals and a remedial measure specified.
In the event of more heavy rainfall in the future, it is recommended that all property owners and developers have an emergency plan in place in case water enters their property or development. This would involve making the most valuable items safe including electrical installations where only a small amount of water could cause a catastrophe.
It is important that as a building’s owner/tenant you understand your insurance responsibilities. It is all too common in the UAE for building and contents to be underinsured, or in a worst-case scenario, have no insurance at all.
If you live in an apartment block or lease a unit in a tower, the owners’ association manager will be responsible for ensuring that the building’s structure is insured ... but this may not cover your contents. If water damage occurs in your unit and your possessions are damaged, you would only be covered if you had taken out your own contents’ insurance and the policy is sufficient to cover for this event.
If you own a villa or detached commercial unit you will most likely be responsible for insuring both the building and its contents.
It is important that your building and its contents are insured for the correct value to ensure you are suitably covered in the event of a total loss. An insurance reinstatement valuation of the building can be undertaken to ensure the building is suitably insured.
If we have learnt anything from the last few months, it is that buildings in the UAE have to be built to withstand the elements. They need to be constructed with consideration of high temperatures, heavy rains, strong winds and the risk of fire.
And insurance needs to be in place to safeguard against the risk.
Source: Rhys Steel, Special to Gulf News
The writer is a Chartered Building Surveyor at Cavendish Maxwell.