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Milsons Point apartment owners fear their buildings being inundated by strangers

Residents in a multi-award-winning Sydney harbourview apartment building are fighting a plan to set up a language college that they say will mean at least 150 students coming into their premises every day. Meanwhile, the luxury block next door in exclusive Milsons Point on the lower north shore is also battling a “horrific” scheme to potentially install a call centre in their basement, nine floors down from the street. Residents claim the plans mean unknown visitors will flood both buildings’ lobbies several times a day, tying up the lifts, and force building management to issue numerous extra security key fobs. “We’re looking at overseas students hanging around, using the foyer as a meeting place, bringing in food and drink and smoking cigarettes outside the door,” said Sonny Mathews, the chair of the strata committee at the glamorous 18-level Bridgehill Residences on Alfred Street, where apartments have sold for more than $5.5 million.
Domain
Sue Williams

Milsons Point apartment owners fear their buildings being inundated by strangers

Residents in a multi-award-winning Sydney harbourview apartment building are fighting a plan to set up a language college that they say will mean at least 150 students coming into their premises every day. Meanwhile, the luxury block next door in exclusive Milsons Point on the lower north shore is also battling a “horrific” scheme to potentially install a call centre in their basement, nine floors down from the street. Residents claim the plans mean unknown visitors will flood both buildings’ lobbies several times a day, tying up the lifts, and force building management to issue numerous extra security key fobs. Other apartment blocks are watching the proceedings warily. At the nearby Pinnacle, where the top price was recorded at $4.9 million, chair Ian Mutton, also a North Sydney councillor, is now looking at rewriting building bylaws to try to ensure residents can have a say. “The key issue is, do owners corporations have the power to control the use of their premises?” he said. “Can they have bylaws to restrict usage? It’s an issue that needs to be ventilated.” Convenor Julia Connor of the Milsons Point Community Group, which coordinates 29 apartment buildings in the area, believes the situation is “scary”. “It’s extraordinary that people with homes in apartment buildings are being put in this situation,” she said. “This is a residential area, one of the most densely populated in Australia, and the whole thing is absolutely ridiculous.”
Domain
Sue Williams

'It’s a joke. We can’t go on like this': fourth block of units abandoned in Sydney

An Erskineville apartment development remains a ghost town more than 12 months after it was completed, with the City of Sydney refusing to allow owners to move in over fears the developer did not properly clean up toxic land underneath it. The Herald's revelation that owners have been prevented from living in a fourth Sydney apartment building over safety concerns comes less than 24 hours after an emergency meeting between the state and federal governments over the country’s building standards crisis. The Zetland, Mascot and Opal Tower apartments across Sydney have all been evacuated in the past 12 months due to major defects.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Carrie Fellner

State and territory building ministers agree on national approach to industry reform

The Federal Government says it has brokered an agreement with the states and territories to create a "nationally consistent approach" to reforming the building industry. Speaking during an emergency meeting of state building ministers and industry stakeholders in Sydney today, national Industry Minister Karen Andrews said all parties had "brokered an agreement" to centralise the response to a wave of problems across the country. The nationally consistent approach centres on the recommendations of the Shergold-Weir report on industry regulation and reform, released in April 2018. Stephen Goddard from the Owners Corporation Network, which represents people living under strata title in New South Wales, said all branches of government had a responsibility to assist stranded apartment owners. "The real losers are those Australians who are trying to purchase some slice of the Australian dream, a home of their own," he said. "How can they possibly deal with a first home purchase that turns into a potential bankruptcy as the only way of getting out of not the Australian dream, but the Australian nightmare?"
ABC News
Julia Holman and Nick Sas

The Australian Nightmare

Building ministers from around the country are trying to work out how to restore confidence in the construction sector following the emergency evacuation of two Sydney apartment blocks when structural cracks appeared.
ABC 7.30 Report
Jules Holman

Strata owners still waiting for NCAT loophole to be closed to counter bullying owners corporations

Apartment residents are increasingly becoming victims of bullying owners corporations as a result of the NSW government’s two-year failure to plug a loophole in strata law – making it a “toothless tiger”, critics say. Strata lawyer Samantha Saw of Speirs Ryan is the latest to slam an oversight in the 2016 legislation that leaves the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the body that rules in strata disputes, with no power to enforce its own orders. “This hurts the little people who are coming up against an obstinate or bullying owners corporation or strata committee run by a select few because they see themselves as impervious to any penalty against them,” she said. “It was an oversight, an unintended consequence of the new legislation and we’d like to see this changed urgently, particularly since it was a system introduced that was so concerned to be all about fairness. “Instead, it leaves us in a bit of a no-man’s land in strata disputes because it negates the value of obtaining an NCAT order since there are no penalties if it’s not abided by, and leaves the law as a toothless tiger.”
Domain
Sue Williams

Flammable cladding: State pays to fix building industry's shoddy work

The Morrison government has rejected Victoria’s plea to cover half of the $600 million cost of its plan to fix the state’s combustible cladding crisis, meaning the Andrews government will jack up building costs to fund the work. The Andrews government announced on Tuesday that it had committed $600 million to rectify dangerous cladding on hundreds of high-risk buildings, using $300 million from state revenue and also appealing to the Commonwealth for $300 million. It said it would increase building permit levies for some apartment buildings to raise $300 million over five years should the Morrison government say no, but hoped the Commonwealth would contribute.  "There needs to be a true national partnership to put community safety first, to rectify these most dangerous buildings," Premier Daniel Andrews said. The federal Coalition promptly rejected the request. Victoria's decision to pay a large part of the repair bill for private apartments makes it the first Australian state to invest taxpayer dollars to help solve the cladding crisis. It follows a similar move by the British government in May. But taskforce co-chair John Thwaites said "wrongdoers" in the building industry should still be pursued for costs of rectifications. "We’ve been very concerned about the culture in the industry where safety has come second to cutting costs," Mr Thwaites said.
The Age
Clay Lucas and Adam Carey

Flammable cladding: State to pay to fix building industry's shoddy work

The bill to fix hundreds of private buildings around Victoria covered in highly flammable cladding will be in part picked up by the state government, Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Tuesday. The move will cost the state $600 million initially, to rectify works approved and completed by the largely deregulated surveying, fire engineering and construction industry. An estimate by planners at RMIT earlier this year found the repair bill for all of Victoria's apartments covered in flammable cladding would be up to $1.6 billion. Until now, home owners who discovered their apartment was covered in flammable cladding have been told it is their job to pay for it to be fixed.
The Age
Clay Lucas and Adam Carey

Victoria to fund cladding rectification of privately owned buildings

Victoria will fund the rectification of privately owned buildings with combustible cladding, a move that could cost billions of dollars and makes it the first state to take a step industry commentators said was inevitable.
The Australian Financial Review
Michael Bleby

Victoria to fund cladding rectification of privately owned buildings

Victoria will fund the rectification of privately owned buildings with combustible cladding, a move that could cost billions of dollars and makes it the first state to take a step industry commentators said was inevitable. The crisis that is making apartments unsaleable and poses a direct threat to property values is a consequence of the failure of state governments to warn builders and their consultants about the dangers of aluminium composite panels, which sparked fires at Melbourne's Lacrosse and Neo200 residential towers as well as London's Grenfell Tower tragedy, despite being warned about them as early as 2010. Documents The Australian Financial Review obtained under freedom of information rules and from court records showed the concerns of ACT fire authorities and their NSW counterparts that the panels were combustible were discussed as long as nine years ago at meetings of state and territory building regulators and the Australian Building Code Board. However, regulators did not act, and 100 per cent polyethylene core panels remained on sale with no caution at least until 2013.
The Australian Financial Review
Michael Bleby

Flammable cladding: Latest government move leaves owners with ‘no one to pay’

The Victorian government’s latest move to prop up the building industry could spell financial disaster for owners of apartments with combustible cladding. And that’s because  allowing building certifiers and inspectors to operate with insurance policies that contain cladding-related exclusions – leaves owners hoping for a payout with even fewer legal avenues to pursue.  Simon Lockrey, an industrial design lecturer at RMIT University who owns a property with non-compliant cladding, says owners – some of whom face repair bills of up to $3 million – feel like they have “been thrown under a bus” following the government’s latest move. The way he sees it, the decision shows the government cares more about greasing the wheels of industry than protecting the rights of citizens. “The signal it’s sending is that they just want the building industry to keep going… and that they don’t care how that happens,” he said. “Someone’s got to provide some serious leadership and say ‘enough’s enough, we need to stop this industry right now, fundamentally change it, and then keep going’. “Because if they keep doing things like this, it’s just compounding and compounding the pain.”
The New Daily
Euan Black

Immediate reforms: Triguboff's Meriton wants building industry change

Harry Triguboff's Meriton wants immediate reforms to the construction industry in NSW to stop substandard buildings from going up, as a growing number of experts argue the government should issue low-interest loans to apartment owners battling defects. The perception of a crisis in Sydney’s residential apartment market snowballed this week after the Herald revealed another evacuation of a unit block at Zetland, while the Premier conceded that self-regulation had failed. Stephen Goddard, a spokesperson for the Owners Corporation Network, said the possibility of low-interest loans was a “public conversation worth having to protect the interests of the innocent.” “Access to low interest loans, repayable over five to 10 years, is an important lifeline to consider,” he said.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Jacob Saulwick and Tom Rabe

How to avoid buying a dodgy apartment

With state planning ministers meeting this month, informed in part by a behind-closed-doors meeting of development “stakeholders” in NSW last week, you can be sure that building defects in their myriad forms will be on their agenda. From the crumbling Opal and Mascot towers in Sydney to the estimated thousands of apartment blocks across the land that are clad in deadly flammable composite, there will be plenty to talk about. But the problem may be even worse than we thought. As was revealed in a Sydney Morning Herald story last week, millions of dollars in defects claims are quietly being settled out of court. But that only works if there is someone there to sue. If the developer, like Monty Python’s parrot, has ceased to exist, then the apartment owners can be left high and dry. Leading strata lawyer Stephen Goddard, who is also spokesman for the Owners Corporation Network, the peak body for strata owners, is in no doubt what the main issues are. He says, in broad terms, it’s the lack of a duty of care. Under current law, builders have no responsibility to the purchasers of apartments – their responsibility begins and ends with the developer. If that developer has gone into voluntary liquidation (often to “phoenix” into a new entity) there is no one there to sue or settle with. This is such a massive hole in consumer law that it represents part of the business plan of many small, self-styled developers and get-rich-quick schemes. Goddard believes the largely unregulated development industry – anyone can call themselves a developer – needs proper certification … and fast.
The Australian Financial Review
Jimmy Thomson

An elderly woman was advised not to return to her Charlestown apartment before her death on Sunday

AN elderly woman found dead on Sunday in her penthouse apartment at Charlestown's Landmark building received an anonymous letter exposing one of the ugliest secrets in the state's apartment building crisis. "Don't play the defenceless little old lady while you are stabbing everyone here in the heart. As if our and your levies are not high enough," said the letter in February, 2018 before the woman was forced to move out of her apartment in August for more than six months, while defects described as "dangerous and in need of urgent attention" were addressed. The Landmark's 59 residential apartment owners were levied thousands of dollars each for the repairs and the cost of a $650 a week temporary unit where the woman lived until February when the work was completed. She reluctantly returned after the letter warned "I'm living in hope that when you do move out you consider your options about coming back.  If I was you I would use this time to look for another place to live. You are so not capable of adjusting to strata living," the letter said. The woman, in her 70s, was found dead on Sunday after failing to answer phone calls or attend church. A cause of death is yet to be determined.
The Canberra Times
Joanne McCarthy

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

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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

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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

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Bill, Surry Hills

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Sue, Neutral Bay

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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

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Peter, Chiswick

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Lois, Wollongong

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John, Elizabeth Bay

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Pamela, Point Lookout

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Alan, Maryville