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Advocates accuse NSW government of failing to help apartment owners affected by flammable cladding

Residents at high risk from potentially deadly flammable cladding are being denied information about what they should do to make their buildings safe, consumer advocates claim. Instead, say apartment residents, they are being threatened with huge fines for doing nothing, while owners in some blocks have been told it could cost more than $50,000 per unit to fix the problem. “This decision is bewildering,” says Phil Gall, the chair of the OCN which is running the seminar. “Fair Trading hasn’t sent them a guide sheet on the processes and types of services they need, nor invited them to meet others in the same situation. “We’re running this seminar to help owners navigate a way through an extremely difficult process, give them information and provide a forum to ask the experts questions. The government’s refusal to pass on details to the affected owners, and their secrecy, would be understandable if they were offering them help – but they’re not!”
Domain
Sue Williams

What’s in the Lacrosse VCAT judgement for owners of defective apartments and policy makers?

Despite the wailing of design consultants about the implications of the Lacrosse judgement and the Opal Tower engineering report, the importance of a viable Design and Construct constructor in these cases has proved critical to a way forward. The experiences and the processes that apartment owners have endured is unreasonable in a modern construction industry. It is evident that better design management skills, risk management and trustworthy performance assurance capabilities are needed to define the quality and resilience of future construction. Unfortunately, the owners of less visible and dramatic residential dwellings affected by these defects have virtually no voice in making their case for restitution. But they vote. And in the end, just as in the case of New Zealand’s Leaky Buildings or the ACT’s Mr Fluffy, a solution must be found. A far more wide-ranging construction industry inquiry is justified. This is why only a 10-year insurance warranty for residential apartments covering the structure, envelope, basement and waterproofing for new-builds from 2020 is viable.
The Fifth Estate
David Chandler

Labor Promises Strata Commissioner to Tackle Defects

A dedicated Strata Commissioner to protect apartment owners and residents and restore confidence in the strata sector will be introduced by the Labor Party, should it win office at the upcoming state election. “A commissioner solely focussed on strata is long overdue,” says Phil Gall, chair of OCN, which is running a seminar on cladding issues on March 16 in Sydney. “Fair Trading is overloaded with concerns that have absolutely nothing to do with housing, home ownership or community. “Far too many stories cross our desks of people being misled and misinformed about their rights, then channelled into a dispute system that is all about compromise, rather than right or wrong. You just have to look at how the short-term letting, cladding and defects issues have been handled to realise a strong strata-focussed voice in the system can only be an improvement.” He said everyone would welcome the creation of a Strata Commissioner under the umbrella of a Ministry of Housing that oversaw every aspect of residential development, from planning to defects resolution and community concerns. That comes on top of Labor’s planned overhaul of the building, development and residential sector by creating a new Building Authority and drafting a new Building Act, while removing property services out of Fair Trading into an expanded building and property services division.
Flat-Chat Podcast
Jimmy Thomson

Cladding and cracking towers prompt call for royal commission

The Builders Collective of Australia, has called for a royal commission into the national industry in the wake of combustible cladding on residential towers and cracked concrete in Sydney's newly completed Opal Tower, citing failures within Australia’s residential construction sector.” Stephen Goddard, solicitor and spokesperson for owner advocacy group Owners Corporation Network of Australia, said he backed a royal commission but acknowledged new home buyers had been the “victim" of multiple inquiries and "we still don’t have any consumer protections.” Mr Goddard said deregulation and a lack of accountability from designers, engineers, architects and builders had resulted in a "loss of public confidence" in strata living and purchasing new apartments off the plan.  “If you know you have an 85% chance of buying into a defective building, why would buy off the plan especially if neither the builder nor developer owes you duty of care?," he said.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Simon Johanson

NSW state election 2019: Labor to introduce strata commissioner if it is elected

A dedicated strata commissioner to protect apartment owners and residents against Opal Tower-style building defects will be introduced by Labor should it win office at this month’s state election.  The opposition’s better regulation spokeswoman Yasmin Catley confirmed to Domain that Labor plans to create an office to oversee all strata issues, but with particular focus on defects in newly constructed buildings. “A commissioner solely focused on strata is long overdue,” said OCN chair Phil Gall. “Fair Trading is overloaded with concerns that have absolutely nothing to do with housing, home ownership or community. “Far too many stories cross our desks of people being misled and misinformed about their rights, then channelled into a dispute system that is all about compromise, rather than right or wrong. You just have to look at how the short-term letting, cladding and defects issues have been handled to realise a strong strata-focused voice in the system can only be an improvement.”
Domain
Jimmy Thomson and Sue Williams

After Opal: Historic opportunity to reverse sorry record

Whoever is in government at the end of the month will have an opportunity to overhaul the state’s building laws to significantly improve the quality of residential construction in NSW. Cynical readers of recent history might question if either side of politics will take advantage of that opportunity. Yet the chance is there, provided the politicians can be pressed to take it. The chance arises because of the widespread acceptance, in the wake of the Christmas Eve cracking of the Opal Tower, that dramatic measures are required to ensure people can buy and live in apartments that won’t crumble around them.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Jacob Saulwick

Lacrosse apartment owners awarded $5.7 million in damages after flammable cladding blaze

The owners of apartments at Melbourne's Lacrosse tower in Docklands have won more than $5.7 million in damages in a lawsuit launched after a fire fuelled by flammable cladding caused significant damage to the building in November 2014. The Lacrosse blaze caused millions of dollars of damage to the 21-storey building, prompting apartment owners to launch legal action against the builder, LU Simon, in a bid to recoup more than $12 million in damages, covering the cost of replacing non-compliant cladding, damaged property, additional insurance premiums and "anticipated future losses". In a decision handed down in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) by Judge Ted Woodward on Thursday, LU Simon was ordered to pay more than $5.7 million to apartment owners.  However, most of that money would be paid to LU Simon by the architect, fire engineer and building surveyor who worked on the project, after Judge Woodward found they had breached contractual obligations.
ABC News
Joseph Dunstan

NSW government says design and construction at Opal breached codes and standards

Non-compliant construction and structural design at Sydney's Opal Tower were responsible for the "rare" defects at the Olympic Park building and should lead to more compliance red-tape for the building industry, a final investigation by the NSW government found.
The Australian Financial Review
Su-Lin Tan

Opal 'tip of the iceberg' of Australia's high-rise building problems: Weir

Sydney's Opal Tower was the "tip of the iceberg" and more building failures would occur if state governments didn't follow through with a set of planned reforms, construction lawyer Bronwyn Weir said. "Opal is the manifestation of a system in trouble," said Ms Weir, who with academic Peter Shergold last year authored a key industry report with recommendations that all states and territories have agreed to implement. Without serious reform it was "quite inevitable" that more such failures would occur, Ms Weir told The Australian Financial Review after publication of the Opal Tower report on Friday.
The Australian Financial Review
Michael Bleby

Cladding crisis spreads into the suburbs as nine more materials are classed as non-compliant

Thousands more homeowners could now find themselves caught up in Australia's cladding crisis, after authorities issued an alert banning the use of another nine types of cladding. The decision, by Australia's leading building product accreditation agency, to withdraw support for the cladding materials has left industry experts stunned and residents potentially facing massive rectification costs.
ABC News
James Oaten

Strata loophole leaves owners vulnerable even when NCAT is supposed to be on their side

Every time Jan Newland leaves her apartment in a building on Sydney’s lower north shore, she checks the sky for signs of rain. And if there are darkening clouds, she pushes her lounge room furniture into the middle of the room, rolls up part of her carpet, puts down containers and hopes against hope it doesn’t rain. Newland has had leaks coming through her ceiling since work to remedy concrete cancer was undertaken by her owners corporation on the apartment upstairs in 2011. And ever since, she’s faced a dripping ceiling every time it rains, despite an order to her strata committee from the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal in January 2017 to have the problem fixed immediately.
Domain
Sue Williams

Parliamentary Panic Behind Short-Term Letting U-turn

Why talk with Alex Greenwich?  Becasue his constituency has more high-rise apartments than any other in Australia. So this podcast is the first of two parts in which we discuss the strata issues of the day – Airbnb, cladding, defects  … and pets. The highlight of the chat, for me, was his description of how a last-minute push by the Owners Corporation Network (and a few like-minded souls) alerted MPs in constituencies with large numbers of apartment blocks that they were about to be effectively handed over to Airbnb and other online letting agencies to be used for holiday lets, regardless of the devastating effects of strata communities.
Flat-Chat
Jimmy Thomson