Thousands of apartment owners in NSW now have a way to launch claims over cladding, water proofing and fire safety defects after a new law created a duty of care for builders, consultants and developers to end users in the construction chain, even without a contractual relationship linking them.
The Design & Building Practitioners Bill 2020, which came into effect last week, gives the state's apartment owners the first chance to seek damages for past building defects. It overturns the precedent set by a 2014 High Court decision that found a builder had no longer-term responsibility to the occupants of a high-rise apartment building.
But this is a game-changer for owners of buildings – particularly those with combustible cladding – as it allows them to make a claim even after statutory warranties have run out, or where there was no statutory warranty in the first place. Owners of buildings that are part of existing legal actions are unable to make negligence claims under the new law, however.
"The legislated duty of care will assist thousands of apartment owners now grappling with major defects, including fire safety installations and serious water leaks," said Karen Stiles, the executive officer of Owners Corporation Network, an advocacy group that has long campaigned for the change.
"It's a great first step towards re-regulating the industry and restoring confidence in new apartments."