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News

'Crisis point' for NSW building as clerk of works makes a comeback

Builders support the resurrection of an independent quality overseer or a "clerk of works" at construction sites in the face of NSW's building failures, the NSW parliamentary inquiry into defects has heard.
The Australian Financial Review
Su-Lin Tan

Building report author says NSW government should fund cladding fix

The co-author of a landmark report into Australia's building regulations says the NSW construction industry is in "crisis" and the Berejiklian government should fund a fix for flammable cladding. "My own personal view has been that governments need to pick up the tab. I agree with what Victoria has done," she said. "I think the federal government has just as much interest in the solution to this as the states."
The Sydney Morning Herald
Megan Gorrey

Make builders and designers liable for flat defects - it works overseas

The owners of Mascot Towers have bitten the bullet and will raise  a $7 million special levy plus GST to pay for remediation work. Investigation of the cause of the damage that forced the evacuation of residents in June is ongoing and reportedly centres on nearby construction. But after NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler visited last week he said: “I don’t think I’ve seen many buildings as poorly built as that." This sorry state of affairs is sending shockwaves through Sydney's property industry – echoed as it is by other cases of faulty buildings. The secret is well and truly out: defects in the residential building sector are endemic. Many have asked, what has the government been doing? The answer is a lot and not much. For example, the Home Building Act 1989 and related Home Building Regulations have been amended well over 100 times in the past 20 years in an attempt to manage building defects – though usually to the benefit of builders and developers.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Christopher Kerin

NSW government’s short-term letting reforms met with mixed reception

It could be at least another six months before Airbnb is regulated in NSW as the state government released its short-term letting reforms for public comment more than a year after reform was first announced. Owners Corporation Network director Jane Hearn said the policy had been watered down. “We are shocked that a loophole has already been introduced,” Ms Hearn said. “The policy has been revised … it means the true extent of short-term letting can never be monitored or measured.”
Domain
Tawar Razaghi

Australia's building crisis fix will cost $6.2 billion: report

The cost of fixing the unfolding national building crisis, including widespread residential apartment block defects and the use of dangerous combustible cladding, could soar past $6.2 billion, according to a new economic analysis. More than 3400 residential unit blocks across the country have potentially flammable exterior cladding, according to a report commissioned by the construction union. Those high-rise blocks take in about 170,000 apartments. In NSW, hundreds of buildings are potentially affected. Pressure is mounting on the Berejiklian government to provide more support and funding either to individual owners’ corporations, or to Sydney councils confronted with buildings that could need flammable cladding ripped off and replaced.
Sydney Morning Herald
Megan Gorrey and Jacob Saulwick

ACT Government needs to go after developers and toughen laws, say unit owners

The ACT Government was on the right track by putting property developers in its sights with a potential licensing scheme but it needed to go further if it was serious about fixing the building quality issue in the ACT, according to the ACT Owners Corporation Network. President Gary Petherbridge, commenting after Tuesday night’s Four Corners report Cracking Up that highlighted Canberra’s decade-old Elara apartments debacle, said the issues started with developers, who needed to be called to account, but licensing alone would not be enough. He said the Government needed to start excluding developers who they knew to be questionable from land purchases. “If they were serious they could turn around and say, ‘we don’t want to sell these properties to people who are proven to have some suspicious behaviour’,” he said. “So that way you could start to put the pressure on. Unfortunately, that means the Government might not get as good a price for these places as they want, because they’ll be limiting the market to those who are credible and won’t have any actions going against them.” Mr Petherbridge said self-regulation in the industry had clearly failed and while acknowledging the efforts of Building Quality Minister Gordon Ramsay and Access Canberra to clean up the mess, he believed tougher laws and a return to former regime practices were needed.
Riot Act!
Ian Bushnell

Building expert commissioned to investigate industry warns 'I wouldn't buy a new apartment'

The co-author of a landmark report on how to fix Australia's building industry has declared she would not buy a newly built apartment, given the scale of the problems. "If I was going to be investing in an apartment, I'd buy an older one. It's common sense, isn't it? It's just logical," Bronwyn Weir told a Four Corners investigation into Australia's building industry. "I wouldn't buy a newly built apartment. No." Ms Weir and former senior public servant Peter Shergold co-wrote the Building Confidence report commissioned by Australia's federal, state and territory building ministers. The report, delivered in February last year, made 24 recommendations including a crackdown on private certification of buildings and registration of every person involved in the building process.
ABC News
Sean Nicholls Sharon O'Neill Naomi Selvaratnam

Four Corners 'Cracking Up'

From shoddy workmanship to lax laws, Australia's apartment building crisis is leaving owners out of pocket and in some cases homeless. Industry insiders reveal a litany of failures that could leave defects for years to come.
ABC Four Corners
Sean Nicholls

Building commissioner keen on government loans for distressed buildings

The state's new building commissioner will recommend direct support for residential apartment owners suffering significant defects or facing large bills to remove dangerous cladding, possibly including low-interest government loans. The intervention will be aimed at addressing a crisis of confidence in the quality of residential building construction across the state and preventing homeowners from signing up to expensive fixes that could exacerbate their distress. Mr Chandler, an experienced builder and consultant, has pushed for low-interest government loans to be made available to strata titles suffering defects. Under this model, owners could repay loans through special levies or when they sold properties. The benefit of the loans would be to restore confidence in the state’s buildings, ensuring owners can get private insurance.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Jacob Saulwick and Megan Gorrey

Advertisement Property Residential Development outrage Print article

When Christine Robinson bought a high-rise apartment in June 2017 she didn't know she was also buying a building manager's services - for 25 years. Robinson, a nurse, and her IT worker husband Chris also didn't know that they, and the other owners in the North Melbourne building, would be paying that building manager, CP Property Pty Ltd, an increase of 4 per cent after the first year and 5 per cent every year after that. This means the building management contract, worth an initial $172,000 before GST, would rise to $549,434 and a cumulative total $8.1 million by the end of 25-year contract. That's an average yearly rate of $325,301. For the 61-year-old Robinson, who could easily still be in the unit in 25 years' time, it was a shock. "My nursing salary sometimes went up 1 per cent in three years but we are paying this company 5 per cent guaranteed increase," she says.
The Australian Financial Review
Michael Bleby

NSW government scrambles for answers at building defects inquiry

The pain of NSW's building crisis was captured in Mascot Towers owner Vijay Vital's testimony at the inquiry, when he broke down describing the loss of his home. Mascot Towers was evacuated on June 14 due to cracks but engineers have yet to find the cause. "I stand here as a parent and my daughter asks me "when  can I go home?" he said amid tears. "I have done everything right and I shouldn't be accountable for this." The Owners Corporation Network (OCN) told the inquiry the question of "who should pay" needs to be addressed now. In the first instance, the government and building practitioners should pay for defects in buildings including those of Opal and Mascot Towers having received stamp duty and earned profits from development respectively, OCN said.
The Australian Financial Review
Su-Lin Tan

'Better off buying a caravan': NSW unit owners voice anger at industry

A resident of one of Sydney's several evacuated apartment buildings has broken down in tears before a parliamentary inquiry when describing the uncertainty he and his young family are now facing. Vijay Vital, who was evacuated from Sydney's Mascot Towers on June 14, was overcome with emotion when he addressed the NSW Legislative Council inquiry into the state's building standards on Monday. The upper house committee heard from several residents affected by mass evacuations in recent months as well as bureaucrats still working to implement laws passed by the government last year. Another Mascot Towers resident, Alton Chen, told the inquiry he may have been better off investing in a caravan.  "Perhaps what I should have done is invest in a caravan because at least, if it was burnt down, at least I'd be covered by the insurance," he said.  
The Sydney Morning Herald
Tom Rabe

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