News | Owners Corporation Network


Omni Bridgeway to chase Fairview's insurers in cladding action

Litigation funder Omni Bridgeway is going after the insurers of cladding supplier Fairview Architectural, after the maker and supplier of Vitrabond combustible cladding said the legal costs of defending itself in a class action suit put the company at risk and put itself into administration. Omni Bridgeway – formerly IMF Bentham – which last year launched the class action against Fairview, the country's second-largest supplier of combustible panels, shrugged off the move, saying it was used to respondents going into administration or liquidation and was seeking to continue the case against Fairview's insurers.
The Australian Financial Review
Michael Bleby

Calls for government to help pay for flammable cladding removal

Michael is joined by Karen Stiles, Executive Officer of the Owners Corporation Network, a not-for-profit body representing apartment owners, who claims the federal government’s $25,000 Home Builder grants would have been better spent fixing apartment buildings cloaked in flammable cladding which posed a risk to lives.

'They should help': Sydney cladding crisis leaves big bills for owners

The large yellow cladding on the side of the 19-storey Distillery apartment tower in Pyrmont has made it one of the most recognisable residential high rises in the inner Sydney suburb. Yet the flammable nature of the cladding has also made it an expensive problem for its owners, who are finally nearing the end of a three-year saga to remove it that has cost them more than $3 million. With thousands of apartment owners across Sydney facing a similar predicament, owners of the Distillery tower say the NSW government needs to help pay for the expensive work removing cladding that only a few years ago complied with regulations. "They should be helping pay the poor old apartment owners overcome a problem created by lax rules," said Colin Knowles, the building's former strata committee chairman and retired engineer. Owners Corporation Network, a not-for-profit body representing apartment owners, said the federal government's $25,000 Homebuilder grants would have been better spent fixing apartment buildings cloaked in flammable cladding which posed a risk to lives. "Once again, strata owners have been left to fend for themselves," executive officer Karen Stiles said. The Victorian government is spending $600 million to fix dangerous cladding on buildings, and last month announced plans to accelerate the work to create more jobs.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Matt O'Sullivan

Transnational data report delivers insights into Australia and New Zealand’s strata sector

A new report examines the growth and demographics associated with apartment living in Australia and New Zealand. One in five Australians and one in twenty New Zealanders live in strata-titled properties, according to a new transnational report from UNSW’s City Futures Research Centre. There are almost 3 million strata and community-titled properties in Australia, with an insured value of over $1.1 trillion, representing a growth in value of over $100 million in the past two years. New South Wales currently has the largest number of strata lots (units) (more than 960,000), but Victoria has the most schemes (developments) (almost 116,000). The Australasian Strata Insights 2020 Report provides a comprehensive picture of the strata industry in Australia and New Zealand, extending on the first Australian National Strata Data Analysis in 2018 with the inclusion of New Zealand data. It provides an invaluable tool for policy makers instigating changes to the framework for the strata industry.
City Futures Research Centre
Hazel Easthope

Dubai's Zen Tower reopens two years on from devastating fire after Dh20m revamp

A Dubai "community" has been reborn as residents return to a tower block devastated by fire two years ago following the completion of a Dh20 million refurbishment project. An electrical fault in a first floor apartment sparked a blaze which tore through Zen Tower on a baking hot summer's day in May, 2018. Thankfully, no lives were lost as wind speeds of 30 miles per hour whipped-up flames across flammable cladding that encased the 68-flat high rise in Dubai Marina. Residents who founded a new owner’s management association expressed huge relief at finally being able to move back into their homes this week. Similar flammable aluminium composite panel cladding used across the country has been blamed as a major factor in scores of tower block fires in recent years. The most recent at the Abbco Tower in Sharjah on May 5 led to calls for as many as 150 buildings in the emirate to have similar cladding replaced.
The National
Nick Webster

Opal Tower residents launch legal action

Residents of Sydney's troubled Opal Tower complex have launched legal action against the NSW government, claiming it developed the "concrete slum". Opal Tower resident and body corporate chairman Shady Eskander on Monday said the Sydney Olympic Park Authority was the vendor of the 392-unit apartment building. The 29-year-old pharmacist said the owners' corporation had filed a new legal proceeding against the authority and the state government in the NSW Supreme Court. The action followed a report by more than 12 independent experts that allegedly found more than 500 common property defects, with residents hit by a $1.1 million insurance premium.
Channel 7 News

'It's not fair': Sydney cladding crisis threatens to 'crush families' financially

The owners of 130 buildings in inner Sydney have been told to replace flammable cladding or reveal more details about the composition of materials used, leaving individual apartment owners facing bills running into the tens of thousands of dollars. The breadth of the cladding crisis in just one part of the city has led to fresh calls for the NSW government to follow Victoria in funding rectification work, partly given the financial pressure owners are already under due to the coronavirus-induced recession. Waterloo resident Adrian Shi was shocked to discover that he would have to pay $25,000 over the next year to remove combustible cladding from his building in the inner-southern suburb. "If it was just a few thousand dollars it would be acceptable but a $25,000 hit comes at a very bad time. It is not fair for the owner to take full responsibility," he said. "The government should give us some help such as a long-term loan." Greens MP David Shoebridge, who chaired an inquiry into building standards, said the cost of fixing flammable cladding in NSW would be "well north" of $1 billion, which would be borne by homeowners "let down by decades of deregulation".
The Sydney Morning Herald
Matt O'Sullivan

The Office of Building Commissioner's Director, Matt Press is now hiring a program manager and project officer

The Office of the Building Commissioner (OBC) has just finished the initial appointments to commence the Occupation Certificate Audits from 1 September 2020. The talent pool of applicants was very impressive. Experienced Designers, Contractors and Certifiers with 15-years experience will soon be in the field to work with the Building Commissioner. A powerful new tool is being built inside BRD to provide a single view of all projects that are visited by our regulatory inspectors. Here, the view combines the view of our safework and building inspectors. There is a clear correlation between unsafe, poorly managed sites and the quality and compliance of the end build. The game is changing in NSW for those who still think they can build shoddy buildings. It is really time for developers, builders and certifiers to come to terms with a very changed construction landscape. We have commenced a program of case studies that will help the industry to see what we are finding and how they will need to adjust going forward. 
David Chandler

What to look out for when reviewing strata records

After spending countless hours trawling through listings and open homes, it’s tempting to hand over your hard-earned deposit and sign on the dotted line quickly when you finally find a home that ticks your boxes. But before you do, it’s important you do the legwork to understand exactly what you’re buying. Owners corporation records offer valuable insights into the scheme, so reviewing these documents prior to purchase is vital. Owners corporation records include information on fees, special levies, fund balances, building works, insurance, by-laws and the minutes of strata committee meetings. Email correspondence between owners and documents from external contractors are sometimes available too. Buyers should also consider what information may be missing.  Just because there’s nothing in the strata report, it doesn’t mean the building is fine.  Veronica Morgan from Good Deeds Property Buyers in Sydney advises reviewing records against a list of expected inclusions, and factoring any blank spots into your decision.  
Jessica Golding

Cladding removal scheme sped up to help keep tradies 'on the tools'

In a bid to create more work for Victorian builders, the Andrews government will accelerate the removal of dangerous flammable cladding from apartments across the state. Over the past two decades, thousands of buildings across Australia have been built with cladding which after a series of fires both locally and internationally, has been found to be highly flammable. The state government is spending $600 million to fix the cladding on private apartments and had planned to fund repair works on up to 100 buildings a year. On Tuesday Planning Minister Richard Wynne announced this workload would double, in order to help keep builders afloat and revive an economy stalled by the coronavirus pandemic. But Mr Wynne said that only reputable builders would be eligible for the accelerated rectification works. “Those found to have done the wrong thing will not be able to participate,” Mr Wynne said.
The Age
Clay Lucas

Sydney's 'worst' apartment tower for defects forces industry shake-up

The NSW Building Commissioner has revealed an apartment tower in western Sydney, which he says is probably the worst he's inspected, compelled him to convince the state government to give him the powers to clean up the industry. David Chandler has warned developers he will use his new powers to stop them forcing people who buy off-the-plan to settle on apartments in buildings with significant defects. With structural flaws in Sydney's Opal and Mascot Towers still fresh in buyers' minds, Mr Chandler has set his sights on a 16-storey building in Auburn, which inspectors found to be riddled with fire hazards and building defects months after owners and tenants moved in. The commissioner described the apartment tower at 93 Auburn Road as "an abomination ... because it wasn't finished", and cited it as the "straw that broke the camel's back" in convincing the government to enact tougher powers to protect owners.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Matt O'Sullivan

'Throwing good money after bad': Opal Tower owners struggle as costs mount

Owners in Sydney's Opal Tower say they are struggling to pay for ongoing costs arising from cracks in the 36-storey building, after spending about $1 million over the past 18 months. The owners' corporation is considering a special levy to pay for fees for lawyers, engineers and other consultants, as well as $1.28 million in insurance premiums for the new financial year. Owner Andrew Neverly, 60, shut his tour and car rental business several months ago because it was reliant on foreign tourists. Mr Neverly said owners were livid at the prospect of having to fork out for a special levy at a time when they were struggling financially. "As far as we are concerned, it's throwing good money after bad. We can't sell it. Banks won't lend on the building," he said. "It is a hideous situation. Everyone is under loads of financial stress." Mr Neverly, who was a strata manager for a decade, said the commissioner’s key power to withhold occupation certificates was encouraging but he remains sceptical about the protections for owners. "I advise anyone who is looking to buy into the property market not to buy off the plan, and just buy the finished product," he said.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Matt O'Sullivan

HomeBuilder might be the most-complex least-equitable construction jobs program ever devised

HomeBuilder is a good idea gone bad. It is possibly the most complex and least equitable program the government could have devised to deliver construction jobs. It gives $25,000 to people who already own a home or already have enough money to buy one while delivering a minimal stimulus to extra construction. It isn’t a program to create jobs, it is a way of making people who are reasonably well off richer. It does not address homelessness, precarious rental or any of the other pressing problems that are caused by our current housing mix. The big, central problem with the scheme: the opportunity to deliver a substantial program of social housing that would address real problems, including homelessness, has been missed. And the government has done it in a way that will minimise the jobs created and maximise the wealth transfer to Australians who are relatively well off. For a government that has mostly managed to do the right thing ever since COVID-19 hit, this has been a terrible policy clanger. It will encourage everyone who cannot afford to buy a home, or who is homeless, to believe the government has forgotten them.
The Conversation
Geoff Hanmer

Sweeping new powers for NSW building regulator

The NSW building regulator will have sweeping new powers to withhold occupation certificates for apartment and other buildings that are not up to standard, denying developers the ability to settle their projects, under new laws passing Parliament. Building Commissioner David Chandler will require selected developers to inform him six months ahead of their planned completion date and undergo monthly inspections by an architect, engineer and builder, under terms of the Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Bill 2020 that had its third reading in the lower house on Wednesday. At the end of those six months, a building not built according to the approved design will not get its occupation certificate, Mr Chandler said. "There’s nothing more focusing in a developer’s mind than getting between them and gold," he told The Australian Financial Review. "That will be the game-changer."
The Australian Financial Review
Michael Bleby

Building watchdog's powers to be bolstered in bid to clean up industry

The NSW building commissioner is set to gain strong powers to stop builders from forcing off-the-plan sales of apartments with defects after Labor signalled it would support a proposed shake-up of the construction industry. After abandoning attempts late last year to pass key legislation, the Berejiklian government will reintroduce an amended bill to the upper house on Tuesday, and introduce another to the lower house which will, if passed, bolster the enforcement powers of building commissioner David Chandler. Labor and the Greens have indicated they will not stop both pieces of...

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