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‘IN THE LINE OF FIRE’ Event planned for Saturday 14 March is POSTPONED

The world has moved quickly in the last few days in response to COVID-19. The number of gatherings that have been postponed or cancelled has grown enormously. America has shut its borders with Europe, the PGA tour is playing to no fans, F1 will be postponed, Moto GP off, NBA shut down, offices and schools are closing – the list goes on.    With the current advice regarding gatherings and the precautions everyone is taking, it would be irresponsible to go ahead. We do consider the content and messages regarding fire services to be extremely important, but not time critical.   We have decided to take the responsible position to postpone the event. Once the world is a safer place, we will announce a rescheduled date.  

Budget 2020: £1bn fund to strip cladding from tall buildings

A £1bn fund to help strip combustible cladding from homes in privately owned tower blocks is “a huge step forward”, but likely to be too little and would still leave thousands of people in financial and safety limbo, leaseholders said. Leaseholders in blocks with ACM and other kinds of combustible cladding have faced soaring costs for mortgages, insurance and interim fire safety measures. Some have put off having children and others have described bouts of depression and suicidal feelings, with bankruptcy a real possibility.
The Guardian
Robert Booth

NSW builders must win back customer trust, says commissioner

With the introduction of government bills to force change, now is the time for quality market participants to back an overhaul of the state’s construction industry and rebuild customer confidence, argues the NSW Building Commissioner. The NSW government’s Design and Building Practitioner’s Bill (D&BP) and the Residential Apartments (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Bill (RAB) will face the NSW Parliament in coming weeks. Since the publication of the Shergold Weir Building Confidence report on the industry, NSW minister Matt Kean’s discussion paper, Building Strong Foundations, and the appointment of the state’s first Building Commissioner, hundreds of interested parties have set aside their individual agendas to work together to rebuild confidence in the NSW construction industry. Peak industry bodies too have embraced this opportunity for change.
The Fifth Estate
David Chandler

'It's felt life-ruining': flat owners face huge bills for new cladding

Residents of flats in Greater Manchester who are facing huge bills to replace flammable cladding have told of “anxiety so extreme I can’t function” and feel they are members of “generation stuck”. A survey carried out by the Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force found 53% of owner-occupiers in tower blocks had been hit with increased service charges after the Grenfell Tower fire. One resident said their monthly charge had increased from £90 to £480 to cover cladding replacement, with another saying their management company had proposed the cost be added to their maintenance charge to the tune of £1,000 a month. “Nobody seems to be thinking of our mental safety,” said Johansson on Friday. “The anxiety is so extreme I can’t function. We’ve constantly got this money hanging over our heads through no fault of our own. I go to work and can’t concentrate, I come home, look at these four walls and think: ‘Will they set on fire, will I be bankrupted?’ How can you relax in this flat, knowing it’s a fire risk? Right now the reality is I’m more of a danger to myself than a fire.”

More short-stay abuse – with no recourse for residents

Residents across Melbourne are reporting more horror stories of short-stay abuse – with little chance of any meaningful redress and still less of any resolution.  While the state government continues to bury its head in the sand about the dire impact of short-stays, two local councils have responded to community outrage and introduced new laws to regulate the industry. Mornington Peninsula Shire Council has introduced a comprehensive Local Law that requires short-stay operators to register and pay an annual fee and to follow a code of conduct, with a provision for heavy fines and banning delinquent owners. The law covers communication with neighbours, noise limits and anti-social behaviour. The Council says it has a zero-tolerance approach to party houses and will prosecute anyone who breaks the new rules. Since the new law was introduced in 2018 more than 3000 owners have registered their “homes” as short-stay properties and 111 infringement notices have been issued. In 2019 the first two owners were successfully prosecuted. Neighbouring Frankston City Council very recently passed its own local laws to regulate short stay rental properties, to allow the Council to “ensure an appropriate standard of management for short stay rental accommodation, to minimise the risk of nuisance to neighbouring properties.” Frankston short-stay owners will be charged an annual registration fee of $150 and failure to register could result in a fine of up to $2000. An owner’s registration may be cancelled after three substantiated complaints or a single “severe” complaint.
CBD News
Barbara Francis and Rus Littleson

Warning NSW construction crisis fix is still two years away

The NSW Building Commissioner has warned a major fix to the state's residential construction crisis is two years away, as fresh cracks emerged in Sydney's troubled Mascot Towers apartment block. In an interview with the Herald, David Chandler admitted he had been "a bit despondent" after visiting some "pretty awful" construction sites in recent weeks."There are some really regrettable things out there that abhor me," he said. "We'll be in a much better position by 2022 once we've started to change the culture of the industry and get people back to what they should be doing."   Owners Corporation Network executive officer Karen Stiles was pleased the building commissioner was "attacking the problem on a number of fronts" but said "building quality is an absolute issue". "Most of our members come to us because of building defects. I've had people crying, there are people who are suicidal about these things. We've got a long way to go," she said.
Sydney Morning Herald
Megan Gorrey

New rating system could help buyers avoid dodgy apartments

The New South Wales government is planning to introduce a new ratings system for builders and developers in an attempt to protect consumers from buying dodgy apartments. The tool will create a risk profile for every planned project based on the track records of the builders, designers, developers and certifiers involved in the development. And the legal reforms accompanying it will give the government stronger powers to stop occupancy certificates being issued on dodgy buildings. Karen Stiles, chief executive of the Owners Corporation Network (OCN), described Mr Chandler’s ratings system as an “exciting” development. “It will assist prospective purchasers to make better purchasing decisions. And it’s certainly going to help the regulator identify risky projects early on,” Ms Stiles told The New Daily. “Because the problem we’ve had for so many years is that everybody’s tried to mop up the problems at the end, instead of preventing them in the first place.”
The New Daily
Euan Black

NSW plans ratings tool for developers, builder and certifiers

Developers, builders and certifiers will be rated on their record of building failures, finances, complaints, insurance claims and other such factors under a new tool being developed by NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler and data company Equifax. "This will start to join up the players," Mr Chandler told The Australian Financial Review. "When you look into a project that is about to be developed, it’s useful to people like regulators, to people like banks, to people like insurers and people who might be purchasing off the plan, to have some sort of view of what is the composite riskiness of the players who are about to make the project. Consumer advocates welcome the idea. "It’s part of a jigsaw that’s starting to come together to re-regulate and recalibrate the industry," said Karen Stiles, chief executive of the Owners Corporation Network. "This is a really powerful tool for the building commissioner to identify risky developments and be able to act on that before they become the problem of the innocent purchasers."  
The Australian Financial Review
Michael Bleby

Airbnb-style accommodation in Broome targeted in council crackdown

Authorities in the West Australian tourist town of Broome are cracking down on Airbnb and other sharing economy accommodation, telling owners to stop operating or face enforcement action. It is understood the clampdown will mainly affect people who rent out whole apartments and houses in Broome's residential suburbs, which is not allowed under local laws. People sharing a room or part of their property with visitors will now be forced to seek approval as a bed and breakfast and comply with rules in relation to things like parking and swimming pools. "We're not really the same as a bed and breakfast," the operator said. "We're just doing home-sharing on a home-sharing platform. "Formal B&Bs have got advertising signs out the front, which is not something that we intend to do."
ABC News
Claire Moodie

Unit buyers to pay for ratings check on dodgy apartments under reforms

Having grappled for more than 12 months with the fallout from three evacuated buildings and abandoned apartments that have trashed confidence in the industry, the Berejiklian government announced on Monday new powers for the Building Commissioner to use the rating tool to select sites to audit and halt dodgy apartment projects. In a blog post last week, Building Commissioner David Chandler said: "By 2025, it should be possible to provide a high level of compliance and resilience confidence for new buildings." Karen Stiles from the Owners Corporation Network, which represents apartment buyers, said the power for the Building Commissioner to block occupation certificates from being issued was "game changing".
The Sydney Morning Herald
Carrie Fellner and Nigel Gladstone

Risk rating system for builders proposed to prevent defective towers

A risk-rating system for builders and new powers for the building regulator to stop suspect high-rise apartment towers are among measures the NSW government wants introduced to avoid further incidents like Sydney's cracked Opal and Mascot towers. The government used the release of the measures to renew pressure on Labor and the crossbench to pass its building reform legislation, which stalled in the NSW Upper House late last year. While the risk-rating system can be more easily rolled out, the legislation needs to be passed to give NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler the power to withhold occupation certificates from developers. Without a certificate, a developer would have to refund deposits on apartments because residents could not move in. Karen Stiles, the executive officer of the non-profit Owners Corporation Network, said the measures were an important step towards re-regulating and recalibrating the industry but more needed to be done. "We have to get the Bill through the Upper House. We need regulating of other engineers and disciplines," she said.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Matt O'Sullivan

Blitz on dodgy developers of high-rises

NSW regulators will be given powers to block suspect developers from erecting high-rise unit towers and builders will be subjected to a quality-rating regime.
The Australian

'Angry, depressed': Owners in dire straits years after roof ripped off

Robin Son had planned to move out of his parents' West Ryde home soon after he bought an apartment in a Lidcombe building in late 2014. But ever since a storm ripped off the building's roof in January 2016, causing millions of dollars in damages, the 34-year-old has been unable to afford to move with his wife into the two-bedroom apartment they poured their savings into. Instead, they have been forced to rent it out so they can cover strata fees, which have soared five-fold to pay for the building's repairs, and a large mortgage.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Matt O'Sullivan

If you’re a dodgy builder in NSW get set for a new risk tool that will expose you

By 2030 the NSW construction landscape will be very different, and it won’t much matter what the industry’s past gatekeepers think they can do to maintain the status quo. The forces driving this are different. Here are some reasons why: Loss of confidence – Construction’s customers have lost confidence in both the industry’s public and private institutions Hype – Promises of how new legislation, the latest construction technologies and changing construction methods would change the game have underdelivered Global and digital forces – The influence of local jurisdictions has been permanently diminished by the changing forces of a global marketplace, smarter buildings and the digital economy Educational failings – Outdated vocational and tertiary education models have failed to adapt to deliver a modern construction workforce. These short comings have been aided by professional bodies who have tolerated these indifferent offerings New tools with potential to join up information such as planning, strata registration and insolvencies have the potential to apply a series of data validation and matching capabilities to join up elements such as planning consents, strata plan registrations and insolvencies with developer, builder and certifier histories. Stage two of this data matching is anticipated to extend to consultants, registered training organisations and manufacturers. Imagine a tool like this being able to join up all construction phases from development applications, coming strata plan registrations, settlements and past defaults. Life for those habitual phoenixing players would become sharply more difficult. Beyond these risk tools are those that can create assurance of supply chain trustworthiness and certification. By 2025, it should be possible to provide a high level of compliance and resilience confidence for new buildings.
The Fifth Estate
David Chandler

What Members Say

"The whole strata community owes a huge debt of gratitude to you and the OCN executive. Much appreciated."

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

"I so appreciate being part of the OCN email forum. It provides a great opportunity for sharing ideas and learning"

Ingrid, Neutral Bay

"I must say that I have enjoyed and found consolation in the discussions that have been part of the email chain (forum). I did attend one general meeting and found that it was informative and the people "running the show" were knowledgeable and dedicated to the tasks that had taken on. In short, well done. You and the committee have and continue to support the Strata Community in a very professional manner."

Greg, Parramatta

"Nothing is easy in Strata World and we have been in building defects “mode” for some years – hopefully almost at an end but that process has been most demanding and difficult but again – greatly helped by the experience and wise counsel of other members of OCN."

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

"I belong to OCN because of its professionalism.  I have found the meetings I have been to extremely well presented, to the point, and of course very topical and informative. Speakers on the whole certainly know their topic.  My role of Secretary last year was certainly assisted with the coverage regarding TPG & other subjects. Member newsletters are also of benefit as the topics are specific to strata matters."

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

"The [forum] response to my question was amazing and really useful.  The OCN community is wonderful so thanks."

Jenny, Killara

"I would like to thank you all for the important effort that you are all putting in to look after apartment owners and tenants. It is so valuable and you are heroes. I would not have been able to deal with my duties as a strata chairman without your advice and assistance." 

Angela, Mascot

"The OCN is invaluable – many thanks."

Bill, Surry Hills

"OCN is proving invaluable"

Sue, Neutral Bay

"Thanks to all at OCN for your continuing efforts to keep us up to date with current strata information and advice...it has been very helpful to us"

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."

Peter, Chiswick

"Thanks to OCN for being such a rich resource of trustworthy information about strata matters."

Peter, Chiswick

"I wanted to extend my personal thanks for the very informative & interesting event today. The OCN team did an outstanding job in the organisation of this event & I enjoyed it thoroughly. The quality of speakers, the flow of conversation & interaction from the attendees - first class …& of course, the amazing Jimmy T - always a delight."

Sue, Epping

"OCN does a great job in providing a really valuable service to Strata owners."

Lois, Wollongong

"I am sure my appreciation of your good works is echoed by many in the Stratasphere. Keep up the good work."

John, Elizabeth Bay

"The OCN is probably one of the best, most informed and most informative groups I have been involved with."

Alan, Maryville

"Once again, being able to discuss such things through this forum, helps clear the mind, puts things into perspective and helps one to understand their rights and to form a strategy if needs be. As a simple EC member trying to do what is in the best interests of lot owners, I truly value OCN and am grateful."

Pamela, Point Lookout