Experts are saying that Sydney’s Opal Tower case is just one of many buildings nationwide suffering from poor building standards and defective products slipping through the cracks.
That can be a really concerning narrative for apartment owners like yourself, but to give you some peace of mind, here’s an action plan for raising concerns and having them addressed quickly in your community.
- Do your homework.
The relevant building authorities and commissions in most states & territories see building defects in two distinct lights.
Structural defects – this covers things like a leaking roof, leaking shower, and issues that impact on the health and safety of an occupier.
Non-structural defects – these are defects which are more functional and cosmetic such as sticking doors or windows, minor cracking of plasterboard, etc.
Based on our knowledge of each state and territory’s authorities, the following may not be investigated by them;
- Complaints about electrical work.
- Complaints about meeting contract conditions or payment disputes.
- Complaints where the work value is under a certain value
- Raise defects with your strata manager
- Don’t waste time - liability periods can expire quickly.
For example, in QLD..
If your contract was entered into prior to 10 October 2014, you must lodge a complaint within 3 months of noticing a structural defect that appears within 6 years and 3 months from practical completion and you have up to 7 months after practical completion to lodge a complaint for non-structural defects.
And in NSW,
For major defects the time in which to claim statutory warranties is 6 years (with a 6 month extension if a building defect becomes apparent during the last 6 months of the statutory warranty period) or for non-major defects owners of the building have 2 years (with a 6 month extension if a building defect becomes apparent during the last 6 months of the statutory warranty period) to report defects.
- Speak to your strata management/seek strata management advice
Strata managers are your asset in situations like these. The ability to navigate legislation, understand the timings of when complaints need to be made is crucial in getting the result you want and that’s why strata management is so important.
It is important to note however that whilst all common property defects are to be reported to your strata manager, all internal lot defects are to be reported directly to the builder.
The strata manager is on hand to pass reports of common area defects on to the builder, along with all other common property defects notified to them by various owners/residents.
- Speak to your builder/contractor
In the event of private lot defects, see if issues can be resolved without involving a third party. Make sure that all defects are clearly outlined and documented. Give the builder a reasonable length of time to respond and begin repairs.
- Take the matter before the authorities
If issues cannot be resolved with the builder, take it before the relevant authorities in your region. The purpose of taking it further and contacting an Office of Fair Trading, Consumer Affairs Department or Civil Tribunal is to assist with dispute resolution.
Either you or the trader can formally request for Fair Trading to assist, but both parties need to agree to the attempt at resolution.
So that you’re ready for this process, make sure you have the following information ready including:
- The building details
- A letter of authorisation to state that you’re acting on the owners’ behalf
- The name, address and contact details of the builder including, ABN/ACN and relevant Licence number
The authority receiving your contact may also require the following documentation:
- Community Title Scheme document
- Copies of correspondence with the builder
- Quotes, contracts and other documentation relating to the original work
- A survey plan, and if relevant,
- The purchase contract and the pre-purchase inspection reports.