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‘Game changer’ guide to combat strata building defects

By Grace Ormsby
08 December 2020 | 12 minute read
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A consumer-friendly guide has been created to assist prospective purchasers, property owners and strata managers navigate the identification and fixing of building defects.

The “Strata Defects Rectification Guide” comes from UNSW Sydney’s City Futures Research Centre and the University of Technology Sydney researchers, in partnership with the Strata Community Association (NSW).

The online tool provides vital information to help property owners and strata managers navigate the process of identifying, documenting, reporting and rectifying building defects in strata schemes.

It has been developed as a first point of call for owners and stakeholders who are worried about defects in apartment buildings, and provides easy-to-understand information and support on how property owners and strata managers can rectify defects in their strata scheme.

Users will be assisted in identifying, documenting, reporting and rectifying defects.

According to UNSW City Futures Research Centre’s Dr Laura Crommelin, “it’s an informative guide to support strata property owners and purchasers worried about whether there are defects in an apartment building, and for owners who need more information on how to rectify defects in their strata scheme”.

“It will help owners to know what they should be thinking about, who they should be talking to, what sort of risks they should be looking at, as well as how to find out who is responsible for existing building defects,” she explained.

“It can be hard for owners to find all the information they need to deal with defects; this guide is a tool that helps buyers and owners navigate that information asymmetry.”

Dr Crommelin explained that the guide will be useful at all stages throughout the process of defect rectification, from initial discovery of potential issues through to getting them fixed.

“You can pick up at different stages of the guide, so it will help people find what they need depending on where they’re at in the process.”

While the guide does focus on defects in common property such as hallways and courtyards, it also covers all levels of defects and their severity.

“Major defects are the ones that are the main point of concern for owners, and a lot of the advice is particularly relevant if you’re dealing with significant issues, where there’s lots of cost and complexity about getting it fixed,” she advised.

“The reality of strata is that the cost is a shared, collective financial responsibility, and it can be complicated to agree on an approach... which is what this guide aims to assist with.”

Renters might also find the guide beneficial for clarifying their rights and responsibilities, as Dr Crommelin pointed out that it “highlights the obligations apartment owners have to ensure that the building is in good condition”.

“If you’re a tenant living in a building that isn’t in good condition, it could be a resource to help you have a conversation with the landlord about that responsibility,” she flagged.

“Ultimately, there’s a benefit for everyone involved in understanding their obligations better.”

The NSW government has recently introduced a suite of reforms to the multibillion-dollar apartment building sector in the aftermath of the Opal Tower saga, which will predominantly impact the safety and features of new buildings, but this guide complements these changes by focusing on consumers already in buildings impacted by defects.

Dr Crommelin added: “It’s essential that we build better buildings in the future, and that we also support owners and residents in buildings that already have defect problems or will find they have issues in the years ahead.”

According to Strata Community Association (NSW), this guide could be a “game changer” for the industry.

SCA (NSW) president Chris Duggan said it represents a step forward for the industry: “With the state’s reforms and the building commissioner reshaping construction quality, this guide complements the retrospective effort of the strata industry in educating managers and assists consumers to deal with the practical realities of defects.

“We are honoured to have helped fund and be associated with the development of the guide, as it will have important implications for the future of the strata industry.”

Mr Duggan suggests the collaborative work of SCA (NSW), UNSW and UTS is of critical importance to better address a systemic issue impacting strata schemes in NSW, with a far-reaching and profound impact on those residing in strata properties.

While defects have been a concern in New South Wales for a number of years, Martin Loosemore, professor of construction management at UTS, has flagged that we should expect more to be affected in the future.

He indicated that “parts of the industry have been worried about building defects for some time before Opal Tower put it on the political map”.

The Strata Defects Rectification Guide can be accessed here.

‘Game changer’ guide to combat strata building defects
Opal Tower reb
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Grace Ormsby

Grace Ormsby

Grace is a journalist across Momentum property and investment brands. Grace joined Momentum Media in 2018, bringing with her a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Communication (Journalism) from the University of Newcastle. She’s passionate about delivering easy to digest information and content relevant to her key audiences and stakeholders.

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