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It takes collaboration to fix defects

Confidence in the safety and soundness of new apartment buildings will not be fully restored until federal and state governments accept responsibility for the part they have played in the crisis and proactively look for ways to resolve the issue.

At least that’s the opinion of respected academic Geoff Hanmer, who argues that instead of pointing the finger of blame, both tiers of government should instead be focussed on introducing programs to fix the defects found across some strata complexes, including combustible cladding, incorrectly installed fire protection measures, structural noncompliance, structural failure and leaks.

In a column penned for popular news site The Conversation, the UNSW adjunct lecturer in architecture claimed the current crop of building defects were a direct result of “negligent regulation” by all nine governments over the past two decades.

As a result, Hanmer says federal and state governments have a “legal and moral duty” to coordinate and contribute to a program to manage the risks and economic damage the defect issue had created.

The column is one of three penned by Hanmer since June, taking aim at what he describes as the “blame shifting” and “ineffective regulations” that have led to the crisis of confidence in the safety and soundness of new apartment buildings in Australia.

All the evidence pointed to a long-term failure to heed repeated warnings about the dangers with governments and regulators captive to the interests of the development lobby, building industry and building materials supply industry, he claimed.

In an earlier piece, Hanmer wrote that both major political parties had played a role in creating the policy and self-regulation regime that had contributed to the problem.

It was about time the ALP, the Coalition, the BMF and the ABCB followed NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s lead in admitting that self-regulation had failed.

As such, he also urged the building ministers to instruct the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) to dump its focus on self-regulation and also called for the head of key members of its staff.

“Senior ABCB staff, including the chair, appear to be part of the problem. Asking for their resignation or sacking them would not be unreasonable in the circumstances.”

But rather than just criticising the government’s inaction on the issue, in his latest piece Hanmer has gone one step further by offering some practical ways in which to restore public confidence in the sector.

The first was to call for the reformation of the ABCB, which Hanmer claimed was “directly responsible for the mess”, to ensure it becomes an effective regulator. Likewise, he argued the National Construction Code should be changed to make consumer protection an objective in the delivery of housing for sale.

“All parties involved will have to take some pain: regulators, developers, builders, subcontractors, consultants, certifiers, insurers, aluminum panel manufacturers, suppliers and owners. Only governments can broker a solution as it will require legislation and an allocation of responsibility for fault,” he noted.

Pre-event drinks

Acknowledging the concerns from owners regarding defects and the processes involved, Strata Title Management (STM), a leading and well-established strata management company with over 40 years’ experience and six offices strategically located throughout NSW, recently hosted an event to address How to deal with defects.

Addressing owners first up was STM Senior Business Development Manager, Stella McWiggan, a seasoned strata veteran with more than 15 years industry experience.

Stella is highly skilled in all disciplines of strata with a proven track record in undertaking new building defect claims.

“Defects are common and every building will experience a defect at some stage of its existence, but it’s important to distinguish the difference between maintenance versus a real defects issue

“Defects don’t only apply to new builds, but old established buildings too that have gone through additional or remedial works. Waterproofing is a great example of this”, she said.

Stella continued to explain the responsibilities of the owners corporation in accordance with strata law, ways to protect themselves and outlined a simple 3-step process when dealing with defects:

  1. Identify – Seek assistance, find the source of the issue – testing if necessary by specialists to pinpoint area(s) that is defective
  2. Quality – Scope of work, have an independent expert qualify an experts’ report on the issues and how to repair
  3. Rectify – Tender contract, clear scope of work

Attendees at How to Deal with Building Defects in Sydney by Strata Title Management

Second presenter, Colin Grace of Grace Lawyers reinforced Stella’s advice and outlined avenues for owners corporations to take from a legal perspective when dealing with defects.

“Every building has its unique circumstances and there are different legal avenues available to owners corporations when dealing with defect matters. Apart from working closely with your strata manager to ensure accurate and detailed record-keeping, guidance through and following the process, it’s critical to obtain proper advice from the beginning on your rights”, he said.

PD Remedial representatives, Tim Kurniadi and Marija Petrovska, closed the event with their experiences of remedial services to the strata industry and what to expect when remedial works have been approved and is underway.

Tim outlined typical building defects and common ways for rectification.

Building defects have been around all along and it is unlikely to get eradicated anytime soon. Managing the process properly offers the best chance of achieving the best outcome. It pays to appoint an experienced strata community manager with proven expertise to guide owners corporation and refer trusted experts to keep your property well-maintained and future-proofed. Call 1800 519 642 for an obligation free quote.

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