A group representing the owners of Mascot Towers wants the NSW government to cover the repair costs for the cracking apartment block, saying the "multitude of defects" in several Sydney buildings over the past decade points to a systemic regulatory failure.
An inquiry into the regulation of building standards, quality and disputes in NSW begins on Monday after a series of dramas involving unit buildings, including Mascot Towers and Opal Tower at Olympic Park.
Residents of the Mascot complex’s 132 units have been forced to stay elsewhere since the building was evacuated on June 14 due to cracking in its primary support structure and facade masonry.
They are allowed to access their units six days a week to retrieve items.
In a submission to the inquiry, the Mascot Towers Owners Corporation said owners and residents “relied on the ‘system’ to provide a satisfactory dwelling”, but the NSW government had failed to set a sufficiently tough regulatory framework for builders, certifiers and property developers.
This included the failure of the private building certification process, a lack of supervision over builders and the owners’ responsibility for defects.
The responsibility for repair costs should thus fall to government, it said.
“Buyers have more consumer protection buying a $1000 television than a million-dollar apartment,” the submission said.
The submission outlined Mascot Towers’ various defects leading up to the cracking problem, including “lukewarm” water all year round, severe stormwater flooding and the incorrect use of electrical cables.
The building was passed for occupation despite these faults, it said.
“Our residents have inherited a building with numerous defects … defects which were originally signed off on by our government, engineers and certifiers as ‘within standards’. Somewhere along the lines, maximising profit has become a misinterpretation for ‘delivering quality’,” the submission said.
The group recommended the NSW government fund repairs to Mascot Towers, as the defects “happened under the watch of government”.
It also wanted the reintroduction of a Homeowners Warranty Insurance scheme for all levels of strata development, extension of the statutory warranty period and a statewide assistance package for cladding and defects.
The mandatory supervision of private certifiers was also recommended.
“The buck stops with the government. When it goes wrong, they need to put money back in to fix a system they’ve overseen,” the submission said.
One owner who made a submission said “bankruptcy may turn out to be the best option” for them due to liability for repairs to a devalued property.
“For the most part I have lived in a constant state of anxiety, with many sleepless nights,” the resident, whose name is suppressed, said.
“I have found it extremely hard to function at work.
“Trying to juggle my work with my current chaotic living situation and stress over my future has at times been overwhelming.”
The hearing on Monday will hear from 12 individuals in total, including Commissioner for Fair
Trading Rose Webb, State Insurance Regulatory Authority chief executive Carmel Donnelly and Mascot Towers unit owners Vijay Vital and Alton Chen and strata committee member Terry Jones.
David Chandler, appointed this month as the inaugural NSW building commissioner, will start in his new role later this week.
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