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RMIT Flammable Cladding Study - Calling for Interviewees

RMIT academics Drs Simon Lockrey, Trivess Moore and David Oswald are researching the impact to households living in apartments with flammable cladding.   If you are an owner of property with combustible cladding; and/or you have insights about what owners of property affected by combustible cladding face day to day across Australia they want to hear from you! The researchers want to hear about the scale of the problems you face day to day. This research involves a 30-60 minute audio-recorded in-person or telephone interview where they will ask you a range of open-ended questions. Your answers will form the basis of range of peer reviewed reports, journal articles, conference paper/s and/ or press releases. The interviews of key stakeholders will help inform the study, with the following types of questions asked: • Are you an owner of property affected by combustible cladding? How big is it/ how many dwellings in your building? • What have the social effects of being an owner of property affected by combustible cladding? • Has being an owner of property affected by combustible cladding affected your residential status? (i.e. spatial effects) • Has being an owner of property affected by combustible cladding affected your behaviour? • What have been the financial implications of being an owner of property affected by combustible cladding? If you are interested, please email Dr David Oswald at david.oswald@rmit.edu.au or Dr Trivess Moore at trivess.moore@rmit.edu.au so they can provide you with an information sheet which describes the project in straightforward language. Make sure that you understand its contents, what's involved, and your rights before deciding whether to participate.  Related article - https://www.rmit.edu.au/news/all-news/2019/jun/flammable-cladding-costs-could-approach-billions
RMIT

From the Forum: Airbnb budget by-law and four reno posers

We’re taking moment before our Forum questions this week to urge you not to miss the opportunity to get a cut-price, off-the-peg by-law to prevent Airbnb and other short-term holiday letting coming into your building. Be aware, the way things are shaping up, apartment blocks in NSW that don’t have holiday let bans in place could end up worse off than those in Victoria, where more than one-third of units in some blocks are listed as holiday lets. There are already workshops and seminars out there where owners and even tenants are being advised on how to set up multiple holiday rentals, and get around the new laws. And you can bet some of them are being advised on how to get into blocks that don’t have the necessary by-laws in place before the shutters come down. Now there’s no need for your committee to spend ages weighing up the cost of a by-law.  All you have to do is join the Owners Corporation Network (for a measly $55), if you haven’t already done so. Then you can buy their off-the-peg by-law, written by an expert strata lawyer, for only about $200. Similar by-laws could cost you $1,000 or more from some law firms, and not having one could see your block turned into a de facto hotel when the the full impact (or lack of any) of the new holiday letting laws come into force. Go to OCN.org.au for more details
Flat-Chat
Jimmy Thomson

Fears raised about loopholes to Sydney Airbnb limits

Owners of Sydney houses and apartments will be able to rent out properties all year round using services such as Airbnb under a loophole in the government’s proposed regulation of the sector, critics say. Draft laws open for consultation provide an exception to the 180-day yearly cap the government had proposed for short-term residential rentals in Sydney. The exception is that when short-term tenants rent a premises for more than 21 days at a time, those days do not contribute to the 180-day annual cap. Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich, whose inner-city electorate takes in areas of high demand for tourist accommodation, described the proposed 21-day exception as a "gross betrayal".
The Sydney Morning Herald
Jacob Saulwick

Melbourne's Neo200 tower 'in a serious state of dysfunction'

Melbourne’s Neo200 building was plagued by safety failures including fire alarms that didn’t work, a lack of fire-rated doors and a flat battery inside the building’s crucial fire indicator panel, a key fire investigator has revealed. While the 43-storey Neo200 tower only had 1.5 per cent of its facade covered in combustible polyethylene-core cladding and the fire that broke out in February this year only directly damaged six apartments, the failure of essential safety measures was so great it resulted in total evacuation of the building for 11 days after the fire, Melbourne Fire Brigade Commander Mark Carter told an industry function. Commander Carter said the Neo200 owners were paying about $30,000  a year to a number of contractors servicing essential safety measures. “When the full forensic analysis of the building was done, there were so many issues found with ESMs that you are actually left to question are they getting what they paid for?” he told an industry gathering last week.
The Australian Financial Review
Michael Bleby

Number of Airbnb listings in NSW could be slashed by proposed new fire safety rules, expert warns

The number of properties offered on Airbnb could be slashed thanks to a NSW government proposal to impose stringent new fire safety rules on homes being let short-term. To bring their homes up to the required level, owners and lead tenants could face bills of thousands of dollars to fit integrated smoke alarms in bedrooms and corridors, as well as heat sensors in kitchens, fire extinguishers, fire blankets, emergency exit lights and evacuation maps. The proposal to bring entire homes advertised on platforms like Airbnb and Stayz up to a standard closer to B&Bs, serviced apartments, boarding houses and hotels is in the discussion document put forward by NSW Planning. In November last year, Airbnb launched a massive campaign to try to defeat an earlier proposal – not as tough as this one – to improve fire safety.  “More than 300 Airbnb hosts sent identical letters to Department of Planning,” said planning lawyer and deputy chair of the apartment-owners peak body the Owners Corporation Network Jane Hearn. “Among other things, the letters object to the previously proposed fire safety standards. “Because Airbnb has ‘deemed them safe’ they say they don’t want the ‘additional burden’ of installing interconnected smoke alarms and heat alarms. I really don’t get it; if you are in hospitality, why wouldn’t you want the best safety for your guests and for your own property? “At the recent code of conduct planning meetings when Airbnb was voicing opposition to occupancy limits, delegates were told by people in the hospitality industry that overcrowding and fire was a real issue.  One speaker’s own $3 million house had been burnt to the ground by visitors.”
Domain
Sue Williams

Combustible cladding will 'test the owners corporation model'

Fixing combustible cladding will require technical skills and understanding beyond some owners corporations – especially in smaller buildings – and could prompt a rethink about the best way to manage housing stock, Victoria's cladding tsar Dan O'Brien says. 40 per cent of the 406 structures deemed "high risk" to date were three storeys or below, Mr O'Brien told a property industry audience last week. The lack of sophistication of owners corporations, particularly on smaller buildings, would require Cladding Safety Victoria, the rectification agency Mr O'Brien heads, to boost the level of support it offered those owners' groups, he said. "We’re going to go on a bit of a journey and it will test whether the owners corporation model is the right model to manage buildings in some instances. We’ve got to work through that." Mr O'Brien said. "It’s been a perfectly fine model since 1961," said Karen Stiles, the executive officer of Owners Corporation Network, a NSW-based advocacy group that also has members in Queensland and Victoria. Ms Stiles said the cladding crisis was a failure by state and federal governments and the responsibility for fixing buildings lay with them, rather than owners corporations. "They’re set up to deal with the sort of things small schemes would have to deal with – repairs and maintenance, organising the lawn guy," she said. "They’re not set up for something extreme like cladding rectification where government can’t even tell them what’s compliant."
The Australian Financial Review
Michael Bleby

NSW government receives remediation plan for homeowners

The NSW government has received a plan laying out how it might help homeowners confronting significant costs to repair apartments or to replace flammable cladding, but has not said when it will respond to the issue. Building Commissioner David Chandler, appointed at the start of the month to lead the government’s response to the escalating problem of poorly built apartment blocks in NSW, last week presented interim recommendations to Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson. Mr Chandler would not discuss the recommendations, which were aimed at addressing how the government should respond to previously built structures with defects - as opposed to how it might reform the industry in the future. In NSW, the government has faced increased calls for it to support owners of both of buildings facing hefty bills to replace dangerous external claddings, and owners of apartments with significant defects.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Jacob Saulwick

Victorian Owners Corporation Act reforms fall short

We Live Here has been campaigning for years against blatantly unfair building and facilities management contracts. Many unconscionable contracts have opaque costs, embedded commissions and irrevocable terms of many decades.  The Financial Review reported this month a case of a 99-year embedded network contract! This type of inequity needs to be eliminated. The government has drafted a clause in the proposed draft legislation to prevent onerous long-term contracts that “benefit the applicant for registration of the plan of subdivision”, i.e. the developer. The huge loophole here is that the developer can offer a benevolent gift of a lucrative multi-generational contract to a “mate” who happens to be in effective control of an unrelated company or entity. Different company, different directors – too easy. Many of the unfair contract examples we are being sent by disaffected owners corporations show that the developers and contracted companies are well known to each other but legally unrelated. The reform required is simple: just limit the term of all third-party owners’ corporation (OC) contracts to three years, renewable at the OC’s option – regardless of who benefits. Otherwise the proposed reform will be just ludicrously simple to rort. This legislation needs to allow owners to seek a ruling from Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) on fairness and equity principles for all existing contracts of more than three years, not just new contracts signed since 2017. Many of these unfair “mates” deals for 25, 30 and 99 years obviously still have many years or decades to run.
CBC News
We Live Here

Small print shrinks state cladding fund

The small print in the recent Victorian Building Authority (VBA) report explained that more than half the headline-grabbing $300 million fund would be earmarked to fix the cladding on the government’s own buildings. Less than $150 million will be left over for ordinary folk living in combustible apartments. At an average remediation cost of $5 million per building, the fund is just enough to take care of the cladding on perhaps 30 buildings. That’s about three per cent of the 1069 buildings that the Victorian Cladding Taskforce deemed a “risk to life”.  This cladding fund seems to be scant propitiation for the government’s significant role in this whole scandal – having overseen the disastrous “self-regulation” regime.
CBD News
We Live Here

Towers of Trouble

This story was first published on December 1, 2001 The unfortunate events at Regis Towers, one of Sydney's newest and biggest apartment blocks started to unfold in January when Beryl Hardy Nisbett decided to sell. Things might have remained hidden for longer if the couple who wanted to buy her apartment hadn't insisted on bringing along a building inspector. The inspector produced a 16-page report which concluded that "reasonable habitation of the unit would be extremely difficult". Moreover the inspector, Dominic Ogburn, determined that the problems in the Meriton development were unlikely to be isolated. There were, after all, 554 other residential units in the three Castlereagh Street, Pitt Street and Campbell Street buildings that make up the block. Hardy Nisbett lost her sale but elements of the report found their way to Sydney City Council, which agreed to inspect a sample of 15 units. The council inspectors found 14 to be in breach of the Building Code of Australia and notices under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act began to rain down on the owners' corporation.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Gerard Ryle and Harvey Grennan & Jane Burton Taylor

Building defects cost Aussie home owners an average $6,434

Australia’s homeowners have been forced to fork out $10.5 billion in the last 10 years to address building defects, with the average apartment defect bill hitting $6,434, new research reveals. And while the average bills were less than $10,000, 4 per cent of apartment owners have had to cough up more than $50,000 to address issues. While the sum is significant, Owners Corporation Network (OCN) executive officer Karen Stiles believes the average bill quoted by Mozo is conservative and that owners often face much higher fees.  And, she added, there are very few apartment owner protections. “There are almost zero protections for apartment purchases. You've got more protection buying a $10 toaster than you do buying a $1 million apartment, quite frankly,” she told Yahoo Finance. The OCN recommends buyers avoid purchasing property off the plan or buying in buildings with more than four storeys, as those have no home-owners’ warranty insurance. She said buyers should also think hard about purchasing apartments in buildings constructed in the last 10 years. “The total cost [of building defects] is incomprehensible in terms of the emotional, financial and physical cost to owners and it's never been factored in,” she said.
Yahoo Finance
Lucy Dean

'Crisis point' for NSW building as clerk of works makes a comeback

Builders support the resurrection of an independent quality overseer or a "clerk of works" at construction sites in the face of NSW's building failures, the NSW parliamentary inquiry into defects has heard.
The Australian Financial Review
Su-Lin Tan

Building report author says NSW government should fund cladding fix

The co-author of a landmark report into Australia's building regulations says the NSW construction industry is in "crisis" and the Berejiklian government should fund a fix for flammable cladding. "My own personal view has been that governments need to pick up the tab. I agree with what Victoria has done," she said. "I think the federal government has just as much interest in the solution to this as the states."
The Sydney Morning Herald
Megan Gorrey

NSW government’s short-term letting reforms met with mixed reception

It could be at least another six months before Airbnb is regulated in NSW as the state government released its short-term letting reforms for public comment more than a year after reform was first announced. Owners Corporation Network director Jane Hearn said the policy had been watered down. “We are shocked that a loophole has already been introduced,” Ms Hearn said. “The policy has been revised … it means the true extent of short-term letting can never be monitored or measured.”
Domain
Tawar Razaghi

What Members Say

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Robert, Darlinghurst

"I am very pleased with my membership of OCN, the discussions through sharing emails is very valuable in increasing my knowledge of strata living, the laws and EC responsibilities. I think I am better armed to tread the minefield of the managing agent responsibilities and the necessary action of the EC to monitor the contradictory interests of the agent."

Jim, Wollstonecraft

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Ingrid, Neutral Bay

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Greg, Parramatta

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Pat, St Leonards

"Keep up the good work, as many (if not most) strata schemes need your help, advice and representation at all levels of government."

Jann and John, St Ives

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Graham, East Balmain

I have enjoyed attending the quarterly OCN meetings and the exchange of emails between other Executive Committee Members and think OCN is playing an increasingly important role as a voice for strata dwellers and representing us at Government level. I wish the organisation continuing success in the future."

Pauline, Kings Cross

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Jenny, Killara

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Kate, Coogee

"When my wife & I first encountered a problematic Executive Committee I heard that OCN was a great help (from a Strata manager whom I knew) so we both joined and have gratefully used the on-line information sources. We continued to happily rely on OCN’s assistance when we progressed to Committee status & later as Chair & Secretary of our Committee. I still use OCN in my current role as Treasurer."

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John, Elizabeth Bay

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