Shared from the 9/10/2019 Sydney Morning Herald eEdition

A defect doesn’t have to spell disaster


Many building defects can be rectified if the process is managed properly.

For many apartment owners, one of the most concerning statements imaginable is: ‘‘We’ve found a defect in your building.’’

With headlines just about every week highlighting problems that can be found in properties even just a few years old, the thought of structural defects, cracking walls, unsafe fire cladding, plumbing or electrical issues is enough to panic many owners.

At best, owners fear an uncertain future while lawyers and builders argue over who is to blame and who will fix the problem. At worst, there’s the possibility of residents having to leave a building if it is considered unsafe, with owners watching the value of their investment plummet.

While even small defects should be taken seriously, with the right help such defects can be managed.

‘‘You don’t have to panic, but you do have to have someone there who can deal with it,’’ says Leanne Habib, CEO of Premium Strata.

‘‘Ideally, your strata manager would have been aware of potential problems before they get to the point where it becomes a real worry, and have a plan in place.’’

Fire safety-related defects, for example, are almost certain to show up at annual inspection and, if severe enough, may lead to an order to vacate.

By bringing in contractors ahead of the annual inspection, issues can be identified and rectified before residents are left with a building that is considered unsafe, she says.

‘‘If the fire inspectors report matters deemed to be life-threatening or noncomplying, the council may and can issue a fire order,’’ Habib says.

‘‘That shows why it’s important to be proactive, to have strata managers who are thinking ahead, getting in early, so you’re not in that, ‘Oh my God, we have a fire order!’ situation, which generally provides a deadline to rectify the defects.’’

And don’t be fooled into thinking everything is fine just because you have compliance certificates, she warns owners.

In many cases, the compliance certificates have been supplied by the person who has undertaken the original work.

‘‘Has anyone checked that person’s work?’’ asks Habib. ‘‘This is a hot topic at present and something that should be taken into consideration with any review; government should consider introducing mandatory supervision of private certification,’’ she says.

According to Habib, independent certification is one of the key factors where owners are likely to discover potential problems while there’s time to head them off.

But even if it is too late for early intervention, there are still options.

‘‘You really need someone to identify the issues properly, identify the rectification method, work with the builder to return to the site, fix things and follow it through to make sure it’s done properly,’’ she says.

‘‘Seek advice when finalising any settlement with the builders, ensure to identify the issues to allow a comprehensive settlement that covers all the defects, not leaving you short. Don’t sign a release for unknown defects that can pop up after settlement and still be within the statutory warranty period.’’

That knowledge of how to handle a defect if it arise emphasises the need for personalised and experienced service from strata managers, Habib says.

‘‘It’s not going to be a simple one email, one phone call matter,’’ she says.

‘‘There will be a lot of back and forth and you’ve got to cross your Ts and dot your Is or it can be that nightmare people worry about.

‘‘The right strata manager, who knows the right avenues and processes to provide the leadership and be that driving force on behalf of all owners when handling the issue can be a world of difference.’’

Defects are common throughout the building industry. Many defects, however, are rectifiable when the right people get involved, she says.

See this article in the e-Edition Here