Allegedly overcrowded conditions at the infamous Lacrosse building are set to be investigated following reports that apartments were being crammed with half a dozen people in an apparent breach of the occupancy permit.
News Corporation has reported that Melbourne City Council is set to investigate reports of overcrowded conditions in the building, which created headlines in late 2014 as flames ripped up the side of the building which was later found to contain cladding which was combustible and which did not meet the requirements of the National Construction Code for which it was used.
Whilst the current occupancy permit specifies a maximum of 36 occupants per floor (an average of 2.4 per apartment), The Australian has reported the case of 28-year-old Columbian student Diego Rey, who claims to be sharing a two-bedroom apartment with five others.
Both the Municipal Fire Brigade and the City of Melbourne building surveyor have raised concerns about overcrowding in the block.
Following the Lacrosse fires in 2014, it emerged that some apartments were being used as multiple accommodation units on a commercials basis and in some cases containing between six and eight beds – some let out on short term leases via Airbnb and similar web sites.
In the Lacrosse case, the MBF in its report on the incident said this potentially led to two problems.
First, overcrowding led to a greater level of storage in relation to personal belongings within the apartment and on the apartment balcony – a factor it said created a higher fuel load which enabled a more intense fire to develop.
In addition, the high occupancy rate led to the erection of temporary structures assembled around beds to create privacy, which along with furnishings and other contents may impede clear egress from the apartment.
As all this is going on, apartment owners have until July 2018 to remove the cladding and are in the process of suing builder LU Simon for $16 million to cover the cost.
Whilst the 2014 fire was started by a cigarette on a balcony, the MFB found that the combustible cladding contributed toward its spread.