The Daily Telegraph
Insurance costs rise due to dodgy building materials
NATASHA BITA, NATIONAL AFFAIRS WRITER, The Daily Telegraph
July 19, 2017 12:00am
HOMEOWNERS will cop huge insurance hikes unless governments stop developers using cheaper, substandard building products, an industry peak body has warned.
Insurance companies are now demanding a national building quality watchdog, with powers to enter building sites to check for banned products, such as dangerous Chinese electrical cabling, flammable cladding and imported wall panels laced with asbestos.
The Insurance Council of Australia has told a Senate inquiry in the wake of London’s deadly Grenfell Tower disaster that the existing system, which lets builders choose and pay a private certifier to sign off on building safety, is potentially dangerous.
Forensic police carry a stretcher with a body bag out of the Grenfell Tower block in West London. Cheap cladding was blamed for spreading the June 14 inferno so quickly. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images
“There should be an independent specification and plan review process, including an inspection regime scheduled to coincide with critical stages of construction development,” it says in a submission to the Senate inquiry.
“These regimes should conclude in a final certification process that precludes any potential for noncompliance and product substitution.”
The council says independent checks could add to building costs but “will ultimately save lives and costly rectifications where noncompliance is only detected in a building some time after occupation has commenced”.
Thousands of Australian homeowners are already at risk of house fires following the installation of 4313km of faulty Infinity-branded electrical cables. The Chinese-made cables were recalled in 2013 but barely half have been removed.
The shell of the Grenfell Tower, where 80 people are presumed to have died after the residential building was engulfed by fire on June 14. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images
Inside the Grenfell Tower. Picture: AFP Photo/Metropolitan Police.
Thousands of high-rise buildings across Australia also contain flammable aluminium composite cladding — the same kind of material blamed for the Grenfell inferno in which 80 people died.
And illegal asbestos has been found in Chinese-made building materials. The Insurance Council wants a national inspection system based on Queensland’s, in which the Building Construction Commission has the power to enter building sites to inspect documents and take samples of products for testing.
Council spokesman Campbell Fuller said some insurers might increase premiums or refuse to cover buildings containing dodgy materials. “Non-compliance (with building laws) can put lives at risk as well as affect the insurance of the building,” Mr Fuller said.