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‘Daunting’ reality for strata lot owners after Mascot Towers evacuation

Strata lot owners could have to pay for building repairs after the Mascot Towers residents were evacuated. Owners Corporation Network President Gary Petherbridge tells Ross Greenwood the problem is systemic.  “People shouldn’t be buying off the plan anymore, you’re better off to wait 10 years until the property is sorted out.”
Money News with Ross Greenwood
Ross Greenwood

Mascot Towers unit owners to foot bill for repairs prompting calls for better consumer protections

Stephen Goddard, spokesman for the Owners Corporation Network — an advocacy group for owners in strata schemes — said owners of apartments in the decade-old Mascot Towers development were no longer covered by the statutory warranty period and would now be left with a hefty bill. "Consumers have nowhere to go in these sorts of situations, there's nobody for them to sue, there's nowhere for them to turn," Mr Goddard said. The NSW Premier has "... conceded more needed to be done to protect consumers, given the large number of people living in strata developments."  "We're doing everything we can to support all residents in these circumstances and more importantly trying to get on the front foot to ensure that these type of situations don't arise in the future," she said. Yet NSW strata owners have seen no action on the Lambert Review recommendations released in October 2015 nor the government's promised response of September 2016.  Then there's the Shergold Weir Report of 2018, which the government said in early 2019 it would implement.  Post election, the new Minister for Better Regulation & Innovation, The Hon Kevin Anderson, has yet to commit to a timeline.
ABC News
Bellinda Kontominas and Antonette Collins

Falling through the cracks: Governments slammed over building standards after Mascot evacuation

  Lawyer and strata specialist Stephen Goddard claimed developments could be rushed through by governments eager to profit from stamp duty and other taxes. “Everybody is on a money hit,” Mr Goddard said.  “The government wants to keep the builders building because it gets stamp duty … what happens in the end? People who buy in these apartments get it in the neck.”
The New Daily
Cait Kelly

Mascot Towers’ cracks reflect huge flaws in the regulatory system: industry experts

OCN is lockstep with  Master Builders Association Director, Brian Seidler, who responded to the recent Mascot Tower evacuation, saying: “We need a dedicated senior minister for the building industry … and a building commission,” Mr Seidler said. “Building licences should be taken off people who don’t perform.”
The New Daily
Samantha Dick

Cladding just 'the tip of the iceberg'

Combustible cladding is just the "tip of the iceberg" of defects for high-rise apartment owners in Australia, who will also have to pay to fix widespread problems such as water penetration and incomplete fire safety systems, the authors of a new report into building defects says. While the crisis of combustible cladding is making apartments unsaleable and preventing owners from renewing insurance policies on their buildings, nearly every building in NSW and about three-quarters of all buildings in Victoria and Queensland had defects that pointed to much bigger costs for owners to come, according to the report by Deakin University's Nicole Johnston and Griffith University's Sacha Reid.
The Australian Financial Review
Michael Bleby

NSW off-the-plan buyers to get better protection under new laws this year

Off-the-plan property buyers will soon be better protected when long-awaited legal changes come into effect this September – and inject much-needed confidence into the Sydney new apartment market, project marketers predict. As a result of changes to conveyancing laws approved by the NSW Parliament late last year and to be introduced in the next quarter, developers will be made more accountable to buyers, and there’ll be more certainty. As the peak body for strata owners, the Owners Corporation Network has been strongly supportive of the reforms. “They are much needed,” said executive officer Karen Stiles. “Off-the-plan purchasers currently have few rights, with off-the-plan contracts heavily weighted in favour of the developer. Consumers have more protection buying a bar fridge than a $1 million apartment.”
Domain
Sue Williams

Unit rates changes fail to fix fundamental flaw

Disgruntled ratepayers are amassing a war chest in order to fight future rises, saying changes to the way the charge was calculated in this year's budget do not fix the underlying flaw in the system. Separate rating factors will be introduced for houses and units for the first time, to help smooth out some of the huge rates increases seen by unit owners in the past two years. But Owners Corporation Network president Gary Petherbridge said the changes failed to fix the underlying problem afflicting units in large complexes. "Those getting massive increases in apartments in large complexes are immediately in the highest bracket - that hasn't changed," Mr Petherbridge said.  The organisations are so unhappy about the changes they are "pooling resources" with an eye to next year's territory election, he said. "We're not pushing one particular party, or one particular result. This would not necessarily benefit the Liberals," Mr Petherbridge said.
The Canberra Times
Katie Burgess

NSW still without Airbnb rules, one year after plan was announced

It’s been one year since the NSW government announced it would regulate Airbnb but the state is still without firm rules on short-term letting. In the meantime, it has left Anne Sullivan dealing with apartments in her Strathfield complex that are regularly let through Airbnb and used as party houses. “We’ve had people urinating off balconies, throwing beer bottles off the balcony,” Ms Sullivan said. “We’ve called the police, but I’ve never seen them come. It’s not a priority on the scale of things, and I can understand that. The strata companies have no teeth; they have no authority to do something about it [either].” Owners Corporation Network chief executive (sic) Karen Stiles said: “Every building should have the democratic right to decide whether to permit short term letting. A ‘one size fits all’ state-wide policy simply will not work where you are dealing with people’s homes and unique local communities.” Councils have called for a compulsory registration system for short term-term rental properties to bring Sydney in line with popular tourist destinations like London, Paris and Amsterdam.  But Domain understands the draft code of conduct does not include registration.
Domain
Tawar Razaghi

Tower Residents in Cry for Certainty

Five months ago, Shady Eskander's short-term plans involved watching the New Year's Eve fireworks from his newe apartment on the top floor of Opal Tower in Sydney's Olympic Park.  Longer term, he and wife Amy hoped to start a family. But plans were up-ended on Christmas Eve when major cracks found on the 10th floor of teh $165 million skyscraper forced an emergency evacuation. Hundreds of residents remain in temporary accommodation as nearly half of Opal Tower's  392 luxury apartments are still not fit for reoccupation. Last year's benchmark Shergold-Weir report outlines "significant and concerning" problems with the residential construction industry across Australia and made 24 recommendations to lift standards.  In February, the NSW government announced a regulatory overhaul of the state's construction sector, but Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson has yet to commit to a timeline and the government appears to be moving slowly on implementing some reforms.
The Weekend Australian
Megan Lehmann and Sascha O'Sullivan

Falling Through the Cracks

"The ancient Greeks believed opal came from the tears of Zeus.  When opal turns to tears again it will ... bring down Australia's booming high rise apartment business." - From the Opal Tower Sydney Residents Facebook page Three months after the initial evaculation of Opal Tower on Christmase Eve 2018, nearly half of the tower's apartments are still not fit for reoccupation and hundreds of people remain in temporary digs.   The report commissioned by the NSW Department of Planning contained disturbing revelations in light of the high-density development boom currently sweeping through the natino's capital cities.  It found a number of design and construction issues, including "non-compliance with national codes and standards", had caused major damage to the tower. The findings sent a jolt through NSW's $25 billion construction sector and beyond. "Successive parliaments throughout the country have focused more on procurement of housing stock than how it's been constructed and the safety of people within it," says Stephen Goddard, strata solicitor and spokesman for advocacy group Owners Corporation Network of Australia.  Problems in the industry, he says, can be traced back to the deregulation of the late 1990s. "For the last 20 years you've had more consumer protection purchasing a fridge than a million-dollar apartment.   "It's critical that good public policy be created around this issue," Goddard says.  "The NSW Government has to follow through on its commitmet and the other states need to follow suit or we'll have more and more Opals.  I would advocate in the strongest possible way that people not purchase off the plan until we have that statutory duty of care that allows owners to sue if there's a breach."
The Weekend Australian
Megan Lehmann

Apartments can be great water savers – instead of wasters

Everyone’s talking about water again this week. Sydney Water has announced level one restrictions, high-security water pricing in the Murray region has reached around $175,000 for an Olympic swimming pool’s worth of the stuff and some towns in Barnaby Joyce’s New England electorate face the very real prospect of running out in the coming months. But these issues are literally a drop in the harbour compared to the big picture of how climate change, poor planning, increasing densification, market distortions and other factors are sending supplies of Adam’s ale dangerously low. “As we face water shortages across the state, businesses and individuals must be accountable for their water usage,” Karen Stiles, executive officer of the Owners Corporation Network told The Fifth Estate. “The simplest way to do this is a user pays system. The Owners Corporation Network supports individual water meters in apartment buildings, including older single meter buildings where feasible. Because what’s measured can be managed.”
The Fifth Estate
Willow Aliento

Email spat between Manly residents leads to $120,000 defamation payout

An elderly man who headed the strata committee of a Manly apartment building has been awarded $120,000 in damages after a court found he was defamed by an email from a fellow tenant that implied he was a "small-minded busybody" wasting residents' time on petty matters.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Michaela Whitbourn

Airbnb dividing tourist towns

The rise of Airbnb and other short stay accommodation options is dividing tourist towns across Australia. In the Western Australian tourist mecca of Margaret River, it's pitted neighbour against neighbour, as Erin Parke reports.
ABC 7.30
Erin Parke

High density living is no place for low standards

Images of the fire that consumed the Grenfell Tower in London in 2017 shocked the world. As well as the tragedy of the loss of 72 lives, there was a reminder that high-rise living - so convenient to so many, relies on a lot of people doing their jobs properly before residents even move in. Strata apartments make up the fastest growing sector of housing in the state, but regulation has not kept up with the move to high density living.  But, as Jacob Saulwick reports today, the NSW government is refusing to say when and how it will act on urgent recommendations to lift the standards of residential construction in the wake of the Opal debacle - despite planning for a continued Sydney apartment building boom.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Editorial

Fears Opal Tower lessons unheeded as NSW delays on building reform

The NSW government is refusing to say when and how it will act on urgent recommendations to lift the standards of residential construction in the wake of the Opal Tower debacle - despite planning for a continued Sydney apartment building boom. The new minister responsible for building regulation says he intends to take a fresh look at proposed reforms of the industry - even though the government has been in possession of a report into the problems for 15 months. The delays in implementing an overhaul of the construction industry are frustrating experts, who fear action is needed to prevent another debacle like the cracking Opal Tower, or worse.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Jacob Saulwick

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

"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

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

Alan, Maryville