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News

Opal Tower: Body corporate warns against return amid calls for building industry audit

Residents of Sydney's Opal Towers, who were forced to leave their homes on Christmas Eve, are facing more uncertainty over whether they can return to their apartments. While the tower's builder has given many residents the green light, the body corporate is recommending people wait for more engineering assessments to be done.
SBS

The ‘systemic’ issues plaguing the building industry for ‘decades’

From mushrooms sprouting from mouldy floors, to tradies cutting corners and “mates” certifying buildings, experts say systemic problems are plaguing the building industry, and our homes.  And while Sydney’s Opal Tower debacle thrust them into the spotlight and put further pressure on governments to act, they say issues have been going on for decades. A report last year revealed huge problems in the construction industry. It took three months for the government to release the report, a further several months for senior officers to meet about it and only next month are they gathering again to see where progress — if any — is at. Co-author of the Shergold and Weir report Building Confidence, Bronwyn Weir, said when she read about the Opal Tower she “was not surprised”.  “We were looking at systems used across the country and whether they’re adequate,” Ms Weir said. “There were systemic issues."
News.com.au
Stephanie Bedo

Opal Tower failure reveals “broken system”

Sydney’s Opal Tower has dominated headlines after cracks appeared along a concrete wall in the 38-storey Homebush building in Olympic Park on Christmas Eve. Building defects aren’t unusual in Australian construction, but what the crumbling Opal Tower highlights is the vulnerability of builders and subcontractors of defective buildings and the lack of protections for consumers who buy them. "This is a David-and-Goliath fight no owner expects, or should be expected, to enter into," Karen Stiles, Owners Corporation Network executive officer, told The Australian Financial Review. “But they are left by a broken system to fend for themselves."
Insurance Business Mag
Mina Martin

Who are your strata saints and sinners for 2018?

It’s that time of year when Santa has to decide who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. And here in Flat Chat Central we were thinking, why should he have all the fun?  So we have decided to launch a poll on the 2018 heroes and villains in strata. Who do you think did most to make our lives better or worse in the year gone by? Last, but definitely not least, there are those doughty, determined volunteers at the Owners Corporation Network. They are under-funded, undermined and under-appreciated but they will take on the big end of town and global corporations alike, to fight for you and me.  
Flat-Chat
Jimmy Thomson

Prominent ACT developer facing court action over allegedly poor work

Prominent Canberra property developer Morris Construction Corporation is facing legal action over allegedly defective building work on a Kingston apartment block in the ACT Supreme Court. The owners corporation of the 120-unit apartment block, Kingston Place stage two on Eyre Street, took legal action against the firm in September last year, after first complaining to the ACT's building regulator in August 2016. It is understood the alleged defects range from structural cracking of the major concrete slab in the underground car park and water retention tank in the building's basement to poor workmanship on many of the development's balconies. But the firm is vigorously defending itself against the allegations in court, claiming the defects were not its fault, but may have been caused variously because of poor workmanship by the engineers, AWT [now owned by WSP], or the tiling firm on the balconies, Saba Bros.
The Canberra Times
Daniel Burdon

ACT building regulator to shine light on company histories

Access Canberra deputy director-general Dave Peffer this week told an Owners Corporation Network forum that the regulator was adopting a "far more aggressive approach" to investigating building non-compliance. He also revealed that a pre-Christmas audit blitz, which began in October, had already uncovered defects in documentation in a third of newly built properties where a certificate of occupancy had been issued. Mr Peffer told the forum that creating a "more educated buyer base" could improve the quality of new developments in the ACT.  "For us as a regulator, this is perhaps one of our most important tools for addressing poor quality buildings," he said.
The Canberra Times
Dan Jervis-Bardy

Sydney apartment owners face $12.5 million bill to remove flammable cladding

Hundreds of apartment owners in an inner-city development have been told they may have to cough up $45,000 each in special levies to cover the estimated $12.5 million cost of removing and replacing 10,000 square metres of potentially deadly flammable cladding. Residents of The Quay in Sydney’s Haymarket are mulling over whether to proceed with legal action in the Supreme Court of NSW against builder Parkview Constructions and Chinese developer Ausbao for a major defect claim. The NSW government in August this year declared combustible cladding a banned product, meaning it must be removed from any building on which it has been installed, often to the tune of millions of dollars.
News.com.au
Frank Chung

'Really dodgy set of circumstances': Owners' legal action over defects

Owners of the Elara apartments have revealed they contemplated selling the entire complex to be demolished and rebuilt, such was the scale of alleged defects in the building and their own frustration at roadblocks in securing compensation for an estimated $20 million damage bill. The revelation comes as the owners prepare for Federal Court action against the builders' insurance fund, which could end years of legal wrangling and building disputes over the controversial Bruce development.
The Canberra Times
Dan Jervis-Bardy

Mixed-use regime needs urgent overhaul

Time is running out to establish a suitable regime for the proliferation of mixed-use developments across Canberra, says newly-elected president of the ACT branch of the Strata Community Association, Chris Miller. Mr Miller said the ACT Government had been dragging its feet on developing a new legislative framework for the growing number of developments that combine residential, commercial and retail uses, and the issue was at the top of his to-do list.  He will be engaging with major stakeholders, including the Owners Corporation Network, and knocking on the doors of Government.
The Riot Act
Ian Bushnell

Student accommodation developer GSA abandons Sydney strata renewal purchase

British student accommodation giant GSA has walked away from an $80 million site purchase in Macquarie Park after a long fight to execute a collective strata sale fell through. The sale of two unit blocks at 1-3 Cottonwood Crescent and 2-4 Lachlan Avenue were one of the first big deals to take advantage of NSW laws introduced in late 2016 that allow 75% of a strata ownership to carry ouf the sale or redevelopment of properties which have become too old or costly to maintain. Just over 90 per cent of the block agreed to sell but the owner of three units, Sydney developer Hyecorp, has fought the sale for the past two years.
The Australian Financial Review
Su-Lin Tan

Schoolies 2018: ‘Ghost host’ busters to target silent rentals

Hundreds of ‘ghost host’ busters will this weekend crack down on Schoolies renting units via sites like Airbnb without building management being notified. Peak body, the Strata Community Association, estimated hundreds of strata communities may be caught unaware by raucous parties when Schoolies 2018 kicks off this Saturday on the Gold Coast.   SCA chief executive Alisha Fisher warned that unnotified Schoolies rentals in units of “ghost” hosts created risks for the entire community.
News.com.au
Sophie Foster

New laws better protect off-the-plan buyers

NSW home buyers purchasing residential properties off-the-plan will benefit from stronger protections under new laws endorsed by Parliament last night. The changes to the Conveyancing Act affect disclosures, cooling off periods, holding of deposits and sunset clauses. “Buying off-the-plan has become more popular among first home buyers in recent years. While it works well in most cases, we’ve all heard the horror stories when things go wrong,” Finance Minister Victor Dominello said. "The new laws will bolster existing protections for buyers, by establishing minimum disclosure standards and ensuring that developers are held accountable for delivering what they promised at the time of purchase." The reforms follow a public consultation and are supported by stakeholders including the Owners Corporation Network and the Law Society of NSW.
Mirage News

Surry Hills developer ordered to pay legal costs after losing bid to tear up contracts

A developer who failed in a court action to wrest apartments back from off-the-plan buyers so they could be resold at higher prices has had indemnity costs for the landmark case awarded against him. In a final blow to the builder-developer who finished the quarter-built boutique project in Surry Hills, and then lost a bid to cancel sales to 12 buyers, the NSW Supreme Court has now awarded all costs against him. Lawyer Stephen Goddard, a spokesman for apartment-owners peak body, the Owners Corporation Network, said he felt this was a landmark decision for property buyers. “It’s a watershed moment for consumer protection,” he said. “It’s uplifting to see the NSW Parliament understanding the need for greater consumer protection in the strata space.  This process has affirmed that buyers should have more confidence in the future in choosing to buy into strata and making it their lifestyle of choice.”
Domain
Sue Williams

Who you gonna call? Stratabusters have solutions to apartment problems

It doesn't matter how long you've lived in strata or whether you are a resident or a committee member, sooner or later you are going to need to ask for advice. So where do you go? Interestingly, there is a growing number of places you can get the advice you need at low or no cost.  Some are issue-specific, like BmBGuard which will tell you if there are illegal short term lets in your building, or contultants like Strata Answers and Strata-Worx. Or you can call on the Owners Corporation Nettwork, the peak body for strata owners where membership gives you or your building access to advice and policy making at the highest level.
The Australian Financial Review
Jimmy Thomson

When bad by-laws are bullies’ blunt weapons

There are a million ways to get things wrong in strata, especially when it comes to devising the by-laws with which we try to moderate or even control the behaviour of our neighbours. These sins of commission and omission fall into three main categories: the ignorant, the arrogant and the vindictive. We are talking about a block that on the one hand is pushing through a special levy to cover a shortage of funds and on the other is proposing to pay committee members tens of thousands of dollars for their efforts over the last year. Something seriously wrong here … but with their strata managers on-side and strata lawyers turning a blind eye (except when they are paid to pursue bogus claims), who is going to step in and say “enough!”?
Flat-Chat
Jimmy Thomson