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News

NSW releases draft rules to register certifiers

The NSW government has released more draft regulation to tighten rules for private certifiers, days after engineers said new rules for their registration did not go far enough. These latest steps are part of sweeping reforms following building failures in Sydney such as Opal Tower and Mascot Towers that are causing buyers to shun apartments, an effect that may slow the recovery in the housing cycle. Housing industry leaders at last week's The Australian Financial Review Property Summit 2019 aired their concerns about the values of apartments and buyer interest since the building defects came to light.
The Australian Financial Review
Su-Lin Tan

Airbnb faces new clampdown in push to regulate short-stay accommodation

At least 20,000 short-term rental properties in WA would be forced to register their details as part of a mandatory scheme designed to level the playing field with other accommodation providers and give peace of mind to consumers. A parliamentary inquiry by the Economics and Industry Standing Committee was set up amid rising tension between owners of licensed short-stay businesses and unlicensed operators who advertise through websites such as Airbnb. Its report tabled in State Parliament today found WA had experienced a rapid growth in short-term rentals, with at least 20,000 listings available in the state. But local governments, which are responsible for regulating short-terms rentals, have struggled to address many of the issues associated with the growth and to enforce compliance because of difficulties with locating those breaking the rules.
ABC News
Alisha O'Flaherty

Icon offers settlement to fend off Opal Tower class action

Opal Tower builder Icon has attempted to "settle" owners quietly in anticipation of possibly being drawn in as a party in the beleaguered tower's upcoming class action hearing. The move was slammed by owners who called it a "sneaky" approach to escape liability in the face of formal legal action and a "slap in the face" because Icon had only offered to refund tenants' accommodation bills rather than pay any compensation.
The Australian Financial Review
Su-Lin Tan

Apartment oversupply and construction defects give lenders pause for thought

Apartment buyers could be forced to stump up higher deposits as nervous lenders consider tightening mortgage restrictions due to Sydney's oversupply of apartments and fears about building defects.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Josh Dye

Greens say ACT government should audit privately-owned buildings for flammable cladding

The ACT Greens say the government should consider auditing Canberra's apartment buildings for potentially dangerous flammable cladding. The government launched an audit of territory-owned buildings in July 2017, weeks after the deadly Grenfell Tower fire in London put the global spotlight on the use of aluminum and polyethylene cladding. But the ACT government isn't inspecting privately-owned buildings, relying instead on insurance companies to pass on information about the presence of non-compliant cladding material. The Owners Corporation Network have been urging the government to extend its audit beyond government buildings, arguing high-rise apartment blocks posed the greatest safety risk.  
The Canberra Times
Dan Jervis-Bardy

RMIT Flammable Cladding Study - Calling for Interviewees

RMIT academics Drs Simon Lockrey, Trivess Moore and David Oswald are researching the impact to households living in apartments with flammable cladding.   If you are an owner of property with combustible cladding; and/or you have insights about what owners of property affected by combustible cladding face day to day across Australia they want to hear from you! The researchers want to hear about the scale of the problems you face day to day. This research involves a 30-60 minute audio-recorded in-person or telephone interview where they will ask you a range of open-ended questions. Your answers will form the basis of range of peer reviewed reports, journal articles, conference paper/s and/ or press releases. The interviews of key stakeholders will help inform the study, with the following types of questions asked: • Are you an owner of property affected by combustible cladding? How big is it/ how many dwellings in your building? • What have the social effects of being an owner of property affected by combustible cladding? • Has being an owner of property affected by combustible cladding affected your residential status? (i.e. spatial effects) • Has being an owner of property affected by combustible cladding affected your behaviour? • What have been the financial implications of being an owner of property affected by combustible cladding? If you are interested, please email Dr David Oswald at david.oswald@rmit.edu.au or Dr Trivess Moore at trivess.moore@rmit.edu.au so they can provide you with an information sheet which describes the project in straightforward language. Make sure that you understand its contents, what's involved, and your rights before deciding whether to participate.  Related article - https://www.rmit.edu.au/news/all-news/2019/jun/flammable-cladding-costs-could-approach-billions
RMIT

From the Forum: Airbnb budget by-law and four reno posers

We’re taking moment before our Forum questions this week to urge you not to miss the opportunity to get a cut-price, off-the-peg by-law to prevent Airbnb and other short-term holiday letting coming into your building. Be aware, the way things are shaping up, apartment blocks in NSW that don’t have holiday let bans in place could end up worse off than those in Victoria, where more than one-third of units in some blocks are listed as holiday lets. There are already workshops and seminars out there where owners and even tenants are being advised on how to set up multiple holiday rentals, and get around the new laws. And you can bet some of them are being advised on how to get into blocks that don’t have the necessary by-laws in place before the shutters come down. Now there’s no need for your committee to spend ages weighing up the cost of a by-law.  All you have to do is join the Owners Corporation Network (for a measly $55), if you haven’t already done so. Then you can buy their off-the-peg by-law, written by an expert strata lawyer, for only about $200. Similar by-laws could cost you $1,000 or more from some law firms, and not having one could see your block turned into a de facto hotel when the the full impact (or lack of any) of the new holiday letting laws come into force. Go to OCN.org.au for more details
Flat-Chat
Jimmy Thomson

Fears raised about loopholes to Sydney Airbnb limits

Owners of Sydney houses and apartments will be able to rent out properties all year round using services such as Airbnb under a loophole in the government’s proposed regulation of the sector, critics say. Draft laws open for consultation provide an exception to the 180-day yearly cap the government had proposed for short-term residential rentals in Sydney. The exception is that when short-term tenants rent a premises for more than 21 days at a time, those days do not contribute to the 180-day annual cap. Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich, whose inner-city electorate takes in areas of high demand for tourist accommodation, described the proposed 21-day exception as a "gross betrayal".
The Sydney Morning Herald
Jacob Saulwick

Blowout in time taken to sell property as high-rise fire fears grow

Buyer fears about high-rise apartment fires and construction risks are causing sale times to blow out by more than 60 per cent compared with a year ago, creating bottlenecks for sellers. Lenders are also making it tougher for borrowers to buy apartments by blacklisting some postcodes, increasing deposits and lowering valuations for off-the-plan purchases. “Buyers are telling me they do not want to buy into anything new,” says Patrick Bright, a Sydney-based buyer’s agent. “They do not want to buy into a problem." Cate Bakos, a buyer’s agent in Melbourne, adds: “Buyers are demanding extra due diligence. They don’t want anything to do with buildings that might have potentially flammable cladding or structural problems.”
The Australian Financial Review
Duncan Hughes

Construction tsar David Chandler's biggest obstacle is the politics

Last month, three days into his new role as NSW Building Commissioner, David Chandler appeared before the NSW Parliament’s Public Accountability Committee inquiry into Building Standards, Building Quality and Building Disputes. It was no meet and greet. It was a grilling, at times testy and fractious. But it did point, ahead of new legislation and corporate plans, to the key philosophies and themes that Chandler will bring to the repair of the state’s construction industry. To sum up the Chandler approach, it is about more responsibility, not more red tape. It is a “legislation-light” approach. The focus is on leadership, and using all the levers of the sector, including the financiers and the insurers, as much as legislation, to drive lasting change. “While regulation and compliance are the centrepiece of this picture, they are not going to solve all the issues.” Chandler said in a prepared statement. “The picture is much bigger than this. We need a sea change in industry culture and that culture needs to be one of accountability and pride. The industry must be accountable to regulators, the broader market, and particularly the customers.”
The Australian Financial Review
Robert Harley

Melbourne's Neo200 tower 'in a serious state of dysfunction'

Melbourne’s Neo200 building was plagued by safety failures including fire alarms that didn’t work, a lack of fire-rated doors and a flat battery inside the building’s crucial fire indicator panel, a key fire investigator has revealed. While the 43-storey Neo200 tower only had 1.5 per cent of its facade covered in combustible polyethylene-core cladding and the fire that broke out in February this year only directly damaged six apartments, the failure of essential safety measures was so great it resulted in total evacuation of the building for 11 days after the fire, Melbourne Fire Brigade Commander Mark Carter told an industry function. Commander Carter said the Neo200 owners were paying about $30,000  a year to a number of contractors servicing essential safety measures. “When the full forensic analysis of the building was done, there were so many issues found with ESMs that you are actually left to question are they getting what they paid for?” he told an industry gathering last week.
The Australian Financial Review
Michael Bleby

Number of Airbnb listings in NSW could be slashed by proposed new fire safety rules, expert warns

The number of properties offered on Airbnb could be slashed thanks to a NSW government proposal to impose stringent new fire safety rules on homes being let short-term. To bring their homes up to the required level, owners and lead tenants could face bills of thousands of dollars to fit integrated smoke alarms in bedrooms and corridors, as well as heat sensors in kitchens, fire extinguishers, fire blankets, emergency exit lights and evacuation maps. The proposal to bring entire homes advertised on platforms like Airbnb and Stayz up to a standard closer to B&Bs, serviced apartments, boarding houses and hotels is in the discussion document put forward by NSW Planning. In November last year, Airbnb launched a massive campaign to try to defeat an earlier proposal – not as tough as this one – to improve fire safety.  “More than 300 Airbnb hosts sent identical letters to Department of Planning,” said planning lawyer and deputy chair of the apartment-owners peak body the Owners Corporation Network Jane Hearn. “Among other things, the letters object to the previously proposed fire safety standards. “Because Airbnb has ‘deemed them safe’ they say they don’t want the ‘additional burden’ of installing interconnected smoke alarms and heat alarms. I really don’t get it; if you are in hospitality, why wouldn’t you want the best safety for your guests and for your own property? “At the recent code of conduct planning meetings when Airbnb was voicing opposition to occupancy limits, delegates were told by people in the hospitality industry that overcrowding and fire was a real issue.  One speaker’s own $3 million house had been burnt to the ground by visitors.”
Domain
Sue Williams

Combustible cladding will 'test the owners corporation model'

Fixing combustible cladding will require technical skills and understanding beyond some owners corporations – especially in smaller buildings – and could prompt a rethink about the best way to manage housing stock, Victoria's cladding tsar Dan O'Brien says. 40 per cent of the 406 structures deemed "high risk" to date were three storeys or below, Mr O'Brien told a property industry audience last week. The lack of sophistication of owners corporations, particularly on smaller buildings, would require Cladding Safety Victoria, the rectification agency Mr O'Brien heads, to boost the level of support it offered those owners' groups, he said. "We’re going to go on a bit of a journey and it will test whether the owners corporation model is the right model to manage buildings in some instances. We’ve got to work through that." Mr O'Brien said. "It’s been a perfectly fine model since 1961," said Karen Stiles, the executive officer of Owners Corporation Network, a NSW-based advocacy group that also has members in Queensland and Victoria. Ms Stiles said the cladding crisis was a failure by state and federal governments and the responsibility for fixing buildings lay with them, rather than owners corporations. "They’re set up to deal with the sort of things small schemes would have to deal with – repairs and maintenance, organising the lawn guy," she said. "They’re not set up for something extreme like cladding rectification where government can’t even tell them what’s compliant."
The Australian Financial Review
Michael Bleby

NSW government receives remediation plan for homeowners

The NSW government has received a plan laying out how it might help homeowners confronting significant costs to repair apartments or to replace flammable cladding, but has not said when it will respond to the issue. Building Commissioner David Chandler, appointed at the start of the month to lead the government’s response to the escalating problem of poorly built apartment blocks in NSW, last week presented interim recommendations to Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson. Mr Chandler would not discuss the recommendations, which were aimed at addressing how the government should respond to previously built structures with defects - as opposed to how it might reform the industry in the future. In NSW, the government has faced increased calls for it to support owners of both of buildings facing hefty bills to replace dangerous external claddings, and owners of apartments with significant defects.
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

"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