Jason Storer, the Certifier who issued an interim occupation certificate for the Merhis Auburn Tower is under investigation.
Was Mr Storer employed by the developer, and if so, did the developer exert pressure upon the Certifier to issue the occupation certificate?
Following which Merhis was able to get customers who had bought apartments off the plan to settle!
In which case it would seem the developer ought be under investigation!
MEANWHILE the Fair Trading investigation into Maurice Freixas who issued an occupation certificate for Peak Towers, the apartment building next to the Mascot Towers which the owners allege was the cause of the cracking in the Mascot Towers.
The Commissioner will be able to withhold occupation certificates so builders or developers will not be able to force buyers to settle on properties with defects.
If a buyer has taken a bank loan can they obtain insurance so that they are not forced in a predicament like this to either lose their deposit or buy and hope for the best?
Now that this development is under investigation what does that mean for the protection of the buyers investments?
IS this about NSW INC appearing to clean up the industry?
Focusing on a 16-storey Auburn apartment building full of fire hazards and defects months after owners and tenants moved in … when Sydney Precincts are riddled with defects
WHY has NSW INC delayed the powers of the NSW Building Commissioner until 1 September?
THE Commissioner visited this development by Merhis in October last year … at the urging of Fire and Rescue NSW because only one of its two lifts worked and it failed to meet fire safety, structural, and waterproofing standards!
IS the delay due to give this Cohort time to address (to fudge) issues? Because the Commissioner will be returning to this Merhis development on 1 September …
DESPITE this Merhis … not unlike his mates … describes the buildings as ‘architectural landmarks of the finest standard’…
HOWEVER, the Commissioner has managed to get the new laws passed whereby with developments less than 10 years old owners can now sue those responsible for the defects.
-occupation certificates can be withheld
A further three orders were issued by the council with concerns about construction integrity. When the Commissioner had found a lift shaft so far out of plumb the installers were unable to find a vertical pathway for the lift. A layer of concrete was removed to make the lift fit but they had to resort to installing a smaller lift!
Yet the builder/developer claimed that many were latent defects or caused by extreme weather events or damage by tenants …
Photo: The Conversation: New NSW building law could be a game changer
WILL the ‘New’ NSW Building Laws make Apartment Living Safe & Secure?
UNTIL now … apartment owners have had numerous obstructions in their way to seek redress! They will now be able to launch claims over cladding, water proofing and fire safety defects!
Two bills were passed last week … expected to take effect on 1 September 2020!
-The Design and Building Practitioners Bill 2020
-The Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Bill 2020
At the heart of the legislation … the Secretary of the Department of Customer Service will be able to order the correction of ‘serious defects’ in residential apartments.
-such powers will apply up to 10 years after an occupation certificate was provided
-to ensure defects are rectified prior to residents occupation a prohibition order can be provided to delay an occupation certificate
With the power to order rectification after developments are completed and the statutory duty of care will attract attention across Australia!
This is at the core of private development and the quality of developments too often left wanting …
IF one takes a moment to observe many Tradies … sadly they are always in a hurry … chasing the $$ … if the client questions they are told ‘Don’t stress’. Unfortunately all too often the job can be left done with little care (half-arsed) to move onto the next job … and the next …
WHERE did this attitude stem from? Often it seems in contempt?
APART from the lack of pride in their work what has contributed to this?
-the demise of TAFE
-the loss of apprenticeships
-the shortage of qualified trades people
-the importation of Visa workers whose training may be unknown!
THAT aside Tradies/Contractors command very high fees e.g. $198/200 an hour compared to the $30/$50 (or less) for the rest of us!
Put that in the context of a multi-storey apartment development …
HENCE the need for defects to be rectified prior to the issue of the occupation certificate.
-the contractors then remain under pressure under their contracts
HOWEVER it is the ‘Developer’s Project’ and the developer calls the shots including cost cutting …
Is this where the contempt stems from?
WHAT will happen now … with this Sector having it so good for so long?
Will developers resort to the appeal mechanism? And in turn the contractors, subbies, and others … will they resort to relief provisions in their contracts?
WHAT then for the apartment owners and tenants?
WILL NSW INC ensure the Regulator has the resources?
MEANWHILE there’s hope … because NSW Lawmakers it appears have the momentum to attain the reform needed!
THEowners have voted to sue neighbouring property developer Aland over cracks
THE NEWS WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR SINCE IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT MASCOT TOWERS WERE ON UNSTABLE GROUND WITH LOSS OF SOIL!
LAST Week the Mascot Towers Owners Corporation voted to take legal action against ALAND, the developer of Peak Towers
A statement has been issued which reveals:
-the owners corporation has claimed following excavation work cracks appeared at Mascot Towers
-those constructing Peak Towers removed soil that supported the Mascot Towers
-that Aland’s shoring system was under-designed; piles incorrectly built;with inadequate waterproofing
-October 2019 tests found a loss of soil under the Mascot Towers near the boundary of Peak Towers
-earlier Aland refused to provide the engineers for Mascot Towers with access to inspect the Peak Towers basement
WILL NSW INC heed a message from this? With much of Sydney built on weathered sandstone ridges … and overdevelopment especially in and around Mascot … Ryde … Macquarie Park … MEADOWBANK … Sydney Olympic Park … the Upper North Shore that the Mascot Towers, the Opal Tower maybe but an indicator of more to come!
‘Mascot Tower owners vote to sue neighbouring property developer Aland over cracks’
Amy Greenbank writes in ‘Mascot Towers repair bill to hit $53 million prompting owners to consider selling’
‘Ongoing problems with the troubled Mascot Towers apartment building could see the repair bill blow out to more than $50 million, leaked emails reveal.
Initial estimates put the repair bill at $7 million but that’s blown out to $32 million plus
An extra $21.5 million in interest on a 15-year loan will bring the final bill to $53.5 million
One apartment owner says the developer has gone into liquidation and can’t be held responsible for the bill
Mascot Towers, in Sydney’s south, has been plagued by structural issues and cracking since the complex was evacuated almost a year ago.
Now, owners are considering selling the beleaguered development.’
–$10M more than previous estimates; an average of $400,000 for each owner (132 units)
‘Treacy Sheehan owns a three-bedroom penthouse in the complex and expects to pay an additional $5,000 a month towards the repairs.’
-in addition to strata fees, mortgages, utilities
‘A confidential email, obtained by the ABC, was sent to the building’s owners on Wednesday night by the Strata Committee.’
-the increased costs are due to problems with the facade
-a total of $3,880,000 allocated for the facade repair
WHAT have these home owners paid insurance for?
WHY isn’t the insurance industry demanding higher standards, restoration of regulations and standards to prevent these dire consequences?
-defective construction is widespread throughout the housing industry; not confined to apartment development
WHY isn’t the NSW Government going after the assets of the developer and builder?
WHAT is stopping them?
WHAT of the damage it is believed that has occurred due to the neighbouring construction of Peak Towers?
WHY should home owners be put in this predicament whereby they lose to benefit another developer who can buy this property at its land value to render Mascot Towers owners either homeless or to take on greater debt?
Photo: Johnny-automatic-scales-of-justice.svg From Wikimedia Commons
HOMEOWNERS are being forced to take the least-worst option … meanwhile the developer is free of responsibility through the ‘get out of gaol free card’ of liquidation … how convenient is that? Have these grubs got it all sewn up?
THE NSW Government it appears is doing the least it can do in covering rent for the displaced owners and residents while rectification work is being carried out. Simultaneously the government has launched yet another inquiry into building standards headed up by a Commissioner with limited powers …
AND now as reported by Ben Pike in ‘Holdmark Property Group’s Meadowbank apartment “defective” ‘ the Holdmark Property Group is accused of failing to fix significant defects at its 250 apartment Meadowbank development project 14 months after residents moved in …
Rod Jackson and fellow owners fear they could face enormous repair bills despite only having moved in a little over 12 months and a warranty period of six years!
Mr Jackson in 2018 bought a two-bedroom apartment off the plan for $970,000 claims Holdmark has failed to fix rotting gyprock walls, leaking lifts, glue bleeding out of the external stairs, crumbling sandstone walls and a central water fountain that remains closed.
‘The defects are so bad NSW Builder Commissioner David Chandler has personally stepped in to try and help desperate residents get the problems fixed.
CAAN Photo from our ‘Godzillas with execessive Footprints’ report: Holdmark’s Nancarrow Avenue, Meadowbank development.
“These defects are a direct consequence of poor tradesmanship and shoddy building practice,” Mr Jackson said.
Further, a 10m wall on Nancarrow Ave will soon collapse without some serious rectification.
-a staircase with its wall collapsing with movement
WHY is it that the home owners believe they will have to wear the cost of demolition and reconstruction of the wall?
‘A structural engineer, who did not want to be named, said “there might be some localised risk of dislodgement of small pieces of block or render — which even small pieces can be very dangerous falling from a height”.’
The Sunday Telegraph obtained a copy of the strata committee’s annual general meeting held in January which reveals the owners have had to engage lawyers to get Holdmark to fix the defects with a 20% strata fee increase to initiate legal proceedings
CAAN Photo: the wall referred to above is next to this apartment development at 6 Nancarrow Avenue, Meadowbank.
Meanwhile the NSW Fair Trading Commissioner has assigned a case manager for the matter to assist these home owners. The Building Commissioner, David Chandler has got a commitment from Mr Nassif to attend to the concerns
Holdmark was provided with a list of questions including why so many Harvard building apartments owned by the company remain empty.
PERHAPS CAAN can answer that question … because it is a consequence, no doubt, of the FIRB Ruling allowing developers like Holdmark to sell up to 100% of ‘new homes’ to foreign buyers who can park their money in Australia’s domestic real estate, and leave them vacant
Foreign buyers can also launder ‘black money’ in residential property because the Real Estate Gatekeepers are exempt from Anti-Money Laundering Laws (Morrison Govt October 2018)
*WHY not share to let others know? SEARCH CAAN Website for reports on these matters … *
The Harvard Building Apartment Owners were fobbed off with the reply:
“As the building you refer to has been handed over to the Body Corporate Association, your questions should be sent directly to them for comment,” the spokeswoman said.
“Holdmark is absolutely committed to maintaining an ongoing association with the body corporate for the building during the statutory warranty period.“
AND that Holdmark would continue to work with the body corporate and strata manager to resolve any issue brought to their attention.
IS that good enough? WHY should owners not only at Holdmark’s Meadowbank development but home owners across the board ‘face financial ruin’ from defective work? For two-bed homes close on $1M?
ASK why are the Building Commissioner’s powers are so limited? Cough … cough …
A 2012 study by City Futures surveyed 1,020 strata owners across NSW, and found 72% of all respondents (85% in buildings built since 2000) knew of at least one significant defect in their complex.
A damning 2015 report from Engineers Australia found that 85% of new strata units were defective on completion and the certification system in NSW had “broken down”.
2020 was already shaping as a tough year for Australia’s construction industry.
According to the ABS, dwelling approvals collapsed in the 2019 calendar year, down 28% from peak, with commencements following close behind:
*Now, (the) picture has worsened with Australian Shop & Office Fitting Industry Association CEO, Gerard Ryan, claiming its members are looking at delays to projects of up to six weeks because the coronavirus outbreak is delaying the supply of products from overseas:
Major building projects involving shops, offices, airports and hotels are set to be delayed by at least a month because of the coronavirus…
Australian Shop and Office Fitting Industry Association CEO Gerard Ryan said his members were preparing for delays to projects of between four and six weeks, but the longer the outbreak went on, “the worse that will get”.
About 98 per cent of lighting comes from overseas, while marble, tiles, and bathroom and door products are often sourced from Europe.
“Any delay potentially stops the whole project. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle — everything needs to follow something else,” Mr Ryan said.
“If you can’t get your tiles or flooring down, that’s going to affect something else. If you can’t get your electrical work, cabling and lighting finished then that also affects something else”…
Bob Richardson, chairman of the Australian Construction Industry Forum’s research council, said materials for building facades, components and finishes were affected as contractors sought extensions for projects.
Australian construction jobs hit a record high 1.2 million in the August quarter of 2019, in spite of the dwelling construction bust:
Now it is facing an epic bust as sites across the nation shutdown.
Another insurer has withdrawn from construction’s professional indemnity market. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
THE SOLUTIONS FROM COMMENTATORS!
-I tell you what – make Directors of building firms criminally liable, then let’s talk. The problem with making the taxpayer liable is that you never end up eradicating the bad behaviour – you just encourage more of it.REPLY
-Stop shiitсvnts erecting shiit buildings (many of them can be deported, too). Everything that remains will be insurable.
Or well capitalised and not need insurance in the first place. Those are the free market solutions!
-The solution here has already been done for decades and produced high quality buildings. Get rid of the privatised regulation of the past 20 years. Give regulation back to local government where it belongs, was done efficiently with certifiers employed by Councils and where there is no need for PI insurers for this work. The privatisation model has failed.
AND BRING BACK ‘THE CLERK OF WORKS’!
Related Article:Foxes in Charge of the Hen House New Building Law has a Fatal Flaw!
Last year, the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors (AIBS) released a member communique warning that“the situation around Professional Indemnity (PI) Insurance has reached crisis point” with“a real possibility that without government intervention… private building surveyors may be forced out of work and the construction industry across Australia will be significantly impacted”.
The situation arose after some surveyors had failed to gain PI because of risks surrounding flammable cladding, which has been widely used across Australia’s high-rise, unless cladding-related claims are excluded.
Today, The AFR reports that UK-based insurer HDI Speciality is quitting Australia’s professional indemnity insurance sector. Consequently, broker Bovill Risk & Insurance Consultants (BRIC) is trying to find an alternative provider for one fifth of its clients who are building surveyors and certifiers.
According to PwC research, the construction sector has not been profitable for PI insurers since 2011. And the Insurance Council of Australia is calling for a national solution:
“There’s no certainty in the industry about the longevity of availability of insurance,” [Pat Beaumont, BRIC’s manager of professional risk] told The Australian Financial Review.
“You’re fighting tooth and nail to get renewals done, just for every renewal. And the costs and excesses… are not sustainable for many businesses”…
“Because the current PI insurance model is not sustainable, the latest white knight has galloped away, leaving the current unsatisfactory model yet another step closer to collapse,” Australian Institute of Building Surveyors chief executive Brett Mace said.
“Governments can no longer continue to ignore the warning signs of the last two to three years.”
The Insurance Council of Australia said the dilemma facing building industry consultants was no closer to being resolved than when building ministers met last month…
“The federal government must implement the Shergold-Weir [report’s] recommendations as a matter of urgency.”
I’m not sure what the answer is. But clearly a national solution is required and the federal government must step up (to) the plate.
Professionals other than Elizabeth Farrelly too have called for a return to a system akin to the former Architect/Engineer/CLERK OF WORKS approach as the way to go to ensure well constructed, safe, serviceable and durable buildings.
The Earth’s resources are finite! Including Sand and Water to make concrete …
YET the Cowboys have been building defective towers with demolition in mind 20, 30 years down the track …
The Earth is being choked with Waste! We are running out of landfill sites!
DEVELOPERS with their Population/Housing Ponzi have enticed foreign buyers to leave their dwellings behind them for duplication here in Australia … the Population Ponzi created the need for the supply that could not meet the foreign demand …
Foxes in charge of the hen house: new building law has a fatal flaw
NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler muses wistfully, in an interview, about “when I get my powers.”
Suddenly I’m seeing capes and catsuits. It makes me want to lob in the word kryptonite, see what happens. But Chandler does have the grace to add, “it’s not about me”. Further, in his defence, it is about powers.
Fixing our broken building system will involve serious, inviolable regulatory powers. Very old school.
So intensely, in fact, does Chandler’s task pivot on re-regulating what has been gleefully, over 30 years, deregulated, that the other lurking presence is a word even scarier than kryptonite. A word even Bernie Sanders scarcely dares breathe. Socialism.
Most of the last three decades’ system-demolition has been ideologically driven. Now, perhaps, they’re starting to see sense. Triggered by catastrophe, the new Design and Building Professionals Bill is expected to clear Parliament by month’s end and become fully fledged law, regulations and all, by January 2021.
Most of us have been surprised to find we live in a supposedly first-world state where your building can crack and fall, your balcony collapse, your cladding erupt in flame and your living room flood, rain or no.
Compounding that nasty surprise, hundreds uncertain about the safety or saleability of their homes, is the minuteness of our redress. Just as our apartment-dwelling numbers have soared, our legal protections have become vanishingly small.
This is no coincidence. You ride a bike, nanny says wear a helmet.
But you want to develop a flood plain, import dodgy materials, water-down concrete, masquerade as an engineer, flaunt the height limit, build a slum and vanish into bankruptcy, chances are you’ll get away with it. Where there are profit-gods to appease, deregulation rules.
Perhaps the “Millennials” now in charge can’t be expected to grasp backstory. Anyone who, like the Treasurer, practices Thatcherism while dismissing discussion of it as “outdated”, anyone who says “heritage is of no value if we can’t experience it”, is probably too young to know that regulation for public wellbeing is the core function of government.
Perhaps they really think government exists to make the rich richer. Trickle down, etc.
But for those with eyes to see, watching the Libs (and before them new Labor) wreck our old-growth institutions has been like watching the weasels destroy Toad Hall.
Egged on by developer lobby groups, neo-liberal governments have frantically attacked red tape as though its nominal colour were some kind of political stance.
In this way, all civilising constraints on our building system have been deliberately and progressively weakened. Planning controls, import restrictions, site supervision, contractual protocols, certification, licensing, liability provisions and vocational training – all debilitated to make building easier, cheaper, faster. But even to a Millennial, it can be no surprise that easier, cheaper, faster equals shoddier, tackier, worse.
This is huge. It’s cultural. So what is Chandler’s solution, and will it work?
Chandler offers six pillars. (Yes, you’ll need to step around the ubiquitous construction metaphors).
The new act is Pillar One.
Pillar Two is a risk-rating tool designed to let the commissioner identify the likely dodgy buildings and developers, and conduct special on-site audits complete with stop-work powers.
Pillar Three is educational. This involves working with the Master Builders Association and others to rebuild systems and standards trashedalong with our once-excellent TAFE system, leaving responsibility all-too-often with semi-literate sub-contractors.
Pillar Four is about better contracts; Pillar Five mandates digitisation of information and Pillar Six is about nurturing quality research – including, one can only hope, some intense post-occupancy evaluation.
*Once some trust has been, ahem, rebuilt, Chandler also wants to negotiate the insurance industry towards mandatory decennial insurance – giving affected apartment-owners 10 years of cover for structural defects, as in Britain and France.*
But it all turns on the new bill. This is a complex and technical piece of legislation, but its essence is dramatic.
First, it requires the building as-built to match the design.
Second, it establishes a duty of care from the builder to the end owner (but not to renters). *
Both sound so obviousmost of us probably presumed they already pertained. Not so. Not in any way that matters.
Closing the huge gap between the intention and the deed – between the building as-designed and as-built – will be the new act’s biggest test. The bill proposes to nominate “design practitioners”, generally architects or engineers, who must declare that the design complies with the Building Code of Australia and other regulatory instruments and standards. These, electronically lodged, are the declared drawings.
At the other end of the process the builder must declare that the building has been built accordingly. These as-builts are also lodged electronically, and both sets must match. For any deviation, including possibly thousands of on-site variations, the builder is responsible.Then, and only then, may the certifier issue the occupation certificate.
Failure to make such declarations carries a penalty up to $165,000. Making fraudulent declarations, up to two years in jail.
All good, as far as it goes. But is that far enough?
Chandler believes these mechanisms, combined with the industry’s dawning awareness of shattered public confidence, will change behaviour. Sticks, carrots.
But hmmm. It’s not just behaviour. This transformation of cowboy-land represents huge cultural change. Can it work?
Call me old fashioned, but the sensible way to build, if you give a damn about the result, is how it used to be done. The architect – who alone knows the building holistically and who alone must be fully educated, regulated, registered and insured – designs the building, does full working drawings, lets the contract, supervises the work.
A variant on this is the clerk of works system, where an independent on-site specialist scrutinises all shonks, shortcuts and discrepancies.
Elizabeth Farrelly is a Sydney-based columnist and author who holds a PhD in architecture and several international writing awards. She is a former editor and Sydney City Councilor. Her books include ‘Glenn Murcutt: Three Houses’, ‘Blubberland; the dangers of happiness’ and ‘Caro Was Here’, crime fiction for children (2014).
Geoff Hanmer, Adjunct Lecturer in Architecture at UNSW, claims that proposed NSW Government reforms to building certification will let dodgy developers off the hook:
The New South Wales government is struggling to implement building industry reforms recommended by the Shergold-Weir report over two years ago.
Developers are home free in its proposed legislation; the Design and Building Practitioners Bill doesn’t even mention them. They still appear to be in a position to collect the profits and then phoenix themselves if something goes wrong.
And something is going wrong all too often. David Chandler, the NSW building commissioner appointed to oversee the reforms, said recently he was “ a bit despondent” after seeing “some really regrettable things out there” in a program of site visits…
The bill has the avowed aim of making people who design and build buildings responsible for non-compliance with the National Construction Code by getting them to sign certificates attesting that the building is built according to the code.
This is a guarantee of not very much. The code does not regulate durability or require that buildings be waterproof. Plus, of course, many people have been signing similar certificates for certifiers without it having had much impact to date.
The bill has many other faults and omissions. It does not require a principal design practitioner to be appointed to a complex project and no one is identified as the lead consultant. This means there is no person identified to coordinate design work between all disciplines (architecture and engineering) or to ensure design declarations relate to work as actually done, taking into account all engineering designs and site conditions.
The most critical problem is that the people signing the attestations are not required to actually inspect work during construction. Such a requirement was a key recommendation of the Shergold-Weir report.
The purpose of the bill, other than as political soft soap, is unclear…
[The NSW Government is] in thrall to the development industry, which believes reintroducing these measures will reduce its profits.
The developers are right about this; building properly is more expensive. But I think most buyers would happily pay a bit more for a safe and durable product. They do that when buying consumer durables such as cars and appliances.
The fact of the matter is that for the better part of 20 years, the development industry demanded more and more deregulation and the removal of “red tape” in the planning system to allow them to build bigger apartments faster. This, they claimed, would allow housing supply to respond to demand and help fix the housing crisis.
Instead we’ve gotten rubbish apartment blocks spreading like weeds across Sydney, many requiring rectification, with owners and taxpayers left to pick up the tab.
For years, the development industry has been allowed to run rampant across Sydney. It now must be muzzled, not placated, by the NSW Government.