Topic: News

ACT – Building nightmares revealed, ‘Scarred by the experience’

‘Scarred by the experience’: ACT building nightmares revealed

The extent of problems in the ACT’s construction industry has been laid bare, with accounts of shoddy construction work, building delays and owners being left out of pocket by broke builders detailed in submissions to a new government inquiry.

One legal firm said it had advised 80 property owner corporations in relation to building defects since 2010.

Kerin Benson Lawyers said that ACT government inaction effectively meant that apartment owners in buildings above three storeys had “no recourse against their builders whatsoever” to fix defects.

The ACT parliamentary inquiry has received 39 submissions to its investigation into building quality in the territory.

The submissions highlight wide-ranging concerns about a lack of regulation and oversight in the ACT’s building industry.

Detailed in the submissions are numerous accounts of leaking roofs in new properties, extensive construction delays and shock repair bills imposed on owners.

In one submission, Civium Strata division manager Pascal Deschanel listed an extensive number of faults with an unnamed 45-unit apartment block, whose builder and developer were both deregistered following its construction.

Among the defects were “extensive leaking to building and basement areas, rusting to steel supporting beams” as well as “major cracking to [the] basement retaining wall”.

The property owners had “very little opportunity for recourse” because the builder and developer were deregistered, according to Mr Deschanel’s submission.

A number of submissions also raised concern about the prevalence of “phoenixing” in the ACT construction industry.

The practice, which is illegal in Australia, involves a new company being set up to continue the business of another that has been deliberately liquidated to avoid paying its debts, including tax.

In their submission, Natalie Bice and Brendan Pratt explained how their builder went into liquidation shortly after they moved into their property, leaving them to fix more than 60 defects resulting from a shoddy build.

In the meantime, the builder had transferred all of its assets to a new business, meaning the couple could not chase it for compensation.

In another anonymous submission, a property owner said he had tried repeatedly to contact his builder before discovering it no longer existed as a legal entity.

The owner said he had been “scarred by the experience” of buying the “brand-new” apartment in 2013, and has “often hated living in the ACT as a result”.

“Since the serious issue of waterproofing and roof leaks has worsened, we have been living an emotional and financial nightmare,” the submissions read.

“I would urge the committee to consider the impact on my life, the financial stress, and the prolonged emotional affliction of this negligence and lack of accountability.”

Liberal politician Jeremy Hanson is chairing the parliamentary committee investigating the building industry.  Photo: Rohan Thomson

 Liberal politician Jeremy Hanson is chairing the parliamentary committee investigating the building industry. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The ACT parliamentary committee announced in April that it would investigate the territory’s construction industry amid growing concern about the quality of building work in new developments.

Submissions to the inquiry were scheduled to close on Sunday, but have now been extended until November.

A discussion paper prepared by the committee’s chair, Liberal Jeremy Hanson, said as much as $114 million could have been spent fixing building defects in the ACT in 2016/17, based on modelling from the University of NSW.

The paper also noted that Access Canberra received 525 complaints relating to planning and construction laws in 2016/17.

In its submission to the inquiry, Kerin Benson Lawyers said that number was an “underestimate”, given complaints made by owner corporations were on behalf of hundreds of owners.

The law firm also called out a statement in the discussion paper which said “every contract for the sale of a residential building and every contract to carry out residential building work” contains a warranty, unless the work is valued at less than $12,000.

“It is only true of contracts which were entered into on or after August 2017,” the submission read.

“This effectively means that currently in the ACT, no residential buildings above three storeys have statutory warranty protection.

“This means that many larger residential owner corporations have no recourse against their builders whatsoever.”

The legal firm argued property owners should be given “more tools to address building defects”, saying it would make developers and builders far more likely to change their behaviour.

The Owners Corporation Network said in its response that property developers needed to “move away from greed and towards a more balanced approach to the needs of the community”.

An ACT Government spokeswoman said it took the issue of building quality “seriously” and was already introducing reforms targeting dodgy practice.

“Recently, this has included introducing tests for those seeking a building licence, and retesting both those who have substantiated complaints made against them,” the spokeswoman said.

But Master Builders Association of the ACT Michael Hopkins said the ACT Government continued to renew to licences of builders with a “poor building history”.

Mr Hopkins supported a crackdown on “phoenixing”, a beefed-up complaints handling unit and the introduction of trade contractor licensing.

“On a modern building site, most of the construction work is carried out by trade contractors, who, with very few exceptions, don’t have minimum training requirement and don’t require a trade licence to set up business in the ACT,” he said.

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Britain to spend £200 million fixing combustible cladding

By Andrew MacAskill

London: The British government will spend £200 million ($375 million) to replace combustible cladding on the outside of high-rise buildings after some private developers refused to pay to make them safe in response to fire that killed 71 people.

Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey London social housing block, was engulfed in flames two years ago. Officials have said aluminium cladding with a plastic core contributed to the rapid spread of the blaze.

Smoke and flames rise from the Grenfell Tower building in London in 2017.
Smoke and flames rise from the Grenfell Tower building in London in 2017.CREDIT:AP

After spending months trying to persuade property companies to pay to remove the cladding with only limited success, the government has decided to step in with public funds to fix the cladding on about 170 high rise buildings.

Prime Minister Theresa May said although a number of private companies had acted, too many developers were continuing to pass on the cost of the work to people living in the buildings.

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‘Same as Grenfell Tower’: Cladding fears as fire rips through Melbourne CBD apartment building

Residents will be locked out of their CBD apartments for 48 hours after a vicious, fast-moving fire raced up dangerous cladding on the side of the Spencer Street tower. (more…)


Building Practitioners Board found Kitchener ‘Kitch’ Crespin guilty of thirty two allegations including two counts of creating false documents and forging the owners signature for a false claim in legal proceedings and creating a false contract document.

Kitchener Crespin – The Building Practitioners Board found the practitioner guilty of thirty two allegations in relation to three sites at Glen Iris, Cheltenham and Hughesdale. There were eight allegations relating to the Cheltenham site and were for breaching s16 for carrying out internal alterations for the removal of a wall and installation of structural beams for support prior to the building permit being issued. The practitioner also breached s31(1), s13(1) & (2) of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 for having a non compliant contract, entering into a cost plus contract and not meeting the exceptions to do so nor containing a fair and reasonable estimate of the likely total money to be received under the contract respectively. (more…)


Cladding: A Troublesome Issue for Those Unable to Make a Decision

cladding

The fire that raced up the Lacrosse building in November 2014 fuelled by the combustible polyethylene composite external panelling appears no closer to a resolution after four years.
A VCAT hearing on 25 October 2017 was unable to determine who is responsible for the installation of the panels on the Lacrosse building with the owner’s corporation pursuing the builder (L U Simon), and the only agreement reached was a 30-day trial starting on 1 September 2018.

 

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Combustible

combustible-aluminium-cladding

Combustible: The dangerous legacy of failed regulation in the building industry.

“You shouldn’t have a combustible product on the outside of a building of this type, so how has this been allowed to happen?” Fire officer

Across Australia, governments, councils and the building industry are grappling with a problem so large, it almost defies belief.

“It’s unquantifiable…” Senior Fire Officer

Residential buildings, hospitals, shopping centres and commercial buildings, have been built with flammable aluminium cladding, posing a potentially serious fire risk.

“As soon as I saw that on television that night, straight away I knew it was a cladding fire.” Cladding supplier

It took the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire in London, which claimed at least 80 lives, to set off alarm bells here, but as Four Corners will reveal, the danger posed by this cladding should not have come as a surprise.

“You can’t tell me that if this product, by all reports, has been used widely in the industry for 10 to 30 years, that major suppliers … didn’t know where this product was going to end up.” Fire officer

On Monday, Four Corners investigates why huge amounts of this aluminium cladding has been installed on so many of our buildings, and whether a desire to cut costs won out over caution.

“We have, if you will, a builder, a certifier and a fire engineer who are incentivized to reduce cost.” Fire Engineer

Insiders say there has been a colossal failure of regulation and oversight.

“There’s people out there that would have absolutely no idea what they’re doing and they’re installing it incorrectly, and they’re the people we compete against every day.” Builder

With access to the tests now under way on suspect aluminium cladding, we reveal the enormity of the problem facing authorities and ask who will pay to remove and replace it.

“Everyone has someone else to point the finger at. The product of deregulation and self accreditation, this process of abrogation of responsibility is that no one is responsible.” Federal politician

Combustible, reported by Debbie Whitmont and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 4th September at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 5th September at 10.00am and Wednesday 6th at 11pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.