News | Owners Corporation Network


Fire engineer urges Australia to follow UK’s lead

A senior fire engineer has urged the Australian government to follow the UK’s lead when it comes to rectifying the flammable classing crisis. Ferm Engineering CEO Stephen Burton spoke out about the issue this week, after returning from a fact-finding mission to the UK where he met team members who worked on the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety – a report commissioned by the British government after the fatal Grenfell Tower fire. The UK is now implementing review chair Dame Judith Hackitt’s interim report, published in December 2017, as well as her final report, published in May 2018. “The Federal Government should learn lessons from the Hackitt reports and urgently establish an overarching strategy with tight time frames, rather than leaving building industry reform to state and territory governments that are all taking different pathways,” said Burton. The British government has committed £600 million to help building owners and is moving ahead quickly with assessing, testing and remediating government and privately-owned buildings – according to the plan, the remediation program will be completed by June 2020.
Insurance Business Australia
Nicola Middlemiss

Residents at risk: Council sought demolition orders on Alexandria block

Residents of an Alexandria apartment block are at a "public risk" after a private certifier illegally allowed them to move into a building that the City of Sydney was so concerned about it sought demolition orders. In a fresh chapter to Sydney’s unfolding building standards crisis, the Herald can reveal that the developer failed to to carry out "extensive construction work" to make the building compliant as ordered by the Land and Environment Court in 2017. As a result, the council is now left considering legal action against the owners corporation, in a bid to resolve what the court has branded a "completely unsatisfactory state of affairs". The saga over the "Joshua" building, at 33-49 Euston Road, Alexandria, has emerged as concerns continue to intensify over building standards across Sydney. A neighbouring resident involved in lobbying council over the development, Stefan Jarnason, described the issue as "morally black and white".  "It would be outrageous if the developer is able to get away with not rectifying it," Mr Jarnason said. "It shouldn’t be the owners corporation, the people who’ve bought off the plan in good faith." Carrie Fellner is an investigative reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.  
The Sydney Morning Herald
Carrie Fellner

Canberra developer licencing scheme being considered after ACT Labor call for change

An Australia-first licencing scheme that would crack down on developers avoiding debts and defect bills by requiring increased transparency is being considered by the ACT Government. A resolution passed by the ACT Labor conference over the weekend called for the introduction of a developer licencing scheme, which would ascribe a number of conditions to developers working in Canberra. It would require developers to demonstrate they have the financial and operating capacity to fully complete proposed projects, including being able to address any defects that arise after construction is complete. They would be required to disclose how developments are funded, making it more difficult for companies to go into liquidation in order to avoid debts, only to re-emerge as a new company — a practice commonly known as phoenixing and set up trust accounts to ensure contractors and subcontractors are still paid if a developer goes into liquidation. The motion was brought by the CFMEU, whose ACT branch secretary, Jason O'Mara, said developers had thus far avoided the scrutiny placed on other parts of the industry.
ABC News
Jordan Hayne and Jake Evans

What to do about defective buildings

Jimmy Thomson from and Stephen Goddard, OCN spokesperson talk about what to do if you live in a building that requires remediation.
ABC Radio Sydney
James Valentine

Faulty Wires Could Spark the Next Cladding Crisis

Four thousand kilometres of faulty Infinity cables in homes across Australia could become the next "cladding crisis" in the next two years if they are not remediated, industry groups warned as they push for a national building products certification system. Concerns about the cables add to the wider pool of building defects widely expected to hit Australia's high-rise apartment sector. In 2015, a group of 13 industry groups, including Master Builders Queensland, raised concerns about the cable and the need for a national product register that accurately certified safe products to Karen Andrews, then the parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Industry and Science, and now the federal industry minister. The group said Ms Andrews, while open to the concerns, had not yet done anything to support a system of third-party product certification schemes.  
The Australian Financial Review
Su-Lin Tan

Ministers fiddle while buildings crack and burn

The construction industry crisis didn't happen overnight. Authorities have been on notice for years to fix the problems that now have the industry itself calling for better regulation. The Building Ministers’ Forum (BMF) met last week yet again to discuss implementing the February 2018 Shergold-Weir Report they commissioned in mid-2017. The BMF is responsible for overseeing the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) and building regulation across Australia. The BMF announced yesterday it’s going to “strengthen” the ABCB, which will be “expanded to include greater representation and engagement from industry”. This is the same regulator and the same industry that have been responsible for producing the dud buildings that have been making news across the country: Lacrosse, Opal, Neo200, Mascot Towers, the Gadigal Avenue apartments and countless others that have leaked, cracked and failed, but in less newsworthy ways. The situation is so bad, and trust in the industry so damaged, that we were treated last week to the unique spectacle of Meriton boss Harry Triguboff, among others, asking the government to do a better job of regulating builders. What we need now is concerted and urgent action to stop defective buildings being built and a plan to help residential apartment owners rectify their buildings. The highest priority is to replace combustible cladding on tall residential buildings. The Victorian government should be congratulated for going forward with a scheme to achieve this. Meanwhile, the BMF and the ABCB are still fiddling while Rome burns. They need to get on with it.
UNSW Newsroom
Geoff Hanmer

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.”
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. “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.
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

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.”
Sue Williams

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

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 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

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 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