The shocking images of residents fleeing their Mascot and Opal Towers apartments in the middle of the night, due to major structural cracks, is still playing out in the Australian apartment market.
New research by Australian Apartment Advocacy reveals the defects associated with these buildings are not isolated cases. AAA says the construction industry responsible for building apartments continues to be plagued with poor quality workmanship.
The groups independent research released earlier this year, revealed over half of its respondents (52%) had defects in their apartments. The AAA national study of 3600 apartment owners, identified water penetration and structural cracking to be the most common problems.
A key issue of the 2018 Shergold Weir Report identified serious compliance failures (NCBPs, water ingress, fire safety and structural issues.) So what does our research show? States are dragging their feet, despite the Shergold Weir Report recommendations.
Recently AAA learned of problems encountered by residents of a six-storey apartment with no drainage on its balconies. Despite this, the complex was deemed compliant by Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC).
When AAA raised this, it was told that the developer had chosen not to engage a hydrological engineer, so the company wasn’t required to provide drainage within the apartment complex.
How can the Government be that lapse with what really should be a basic requirement? Drainage should not be optional extra but mandatory for any compliant and trustworthy building.
But it’s easier said than done.
Each State has its own approach to managing building inspections and defects, with many falling short.
AAA applauds the NSW State Government for appointing a Building Commissioner, David Chandler. Mr Chandler has introduced systems and procedures that will last the legacy of time and this is the surety that buyers need.
But sadly, the name and shame strategy employed in NSW, while effective in calling out the bad apples in the industry, has eroded consumer confidence.
A lack of consumer confidence is highlighted in our organisations 2021 Apartment Living Research. On average only 15% of buyers said they would buy off the plan. In NSW, this figure is below 10%.
To instil confidence, buyers need to know how to differentiate between a quality and poor quality developer and builder.
Known as the Erin Brockovich of apartments, I’ve done my fair share of naming and shaming. Recently I was interviewed by A Current Affair, where I exposed the poor quality workmanship of a Probuild apartment in Melbourne. But I am also driven to shine the spotlight on developers doing the right thing. I want buyers to be empowered to know what a quality build should look like.
Last November, AAA launched Australia’s first Apartment Buyer and Owner Education Kit in WA. Victoria followed in July this year and NSW and QLD will have a state based kit in the coming months.
Since being released, the Education Kit has had about 10,000 downloads. AAA believes the Kit should be a compulsory document real estate agents provide to potential buyers.
There are unscrupulous developers and builders working in the industry. There are some who open and phoenix companies continuously and yet the State Governments fail to intervene. It’s leaving devastated buyers out of pocket and it’s having an enormous human impact.
AAA research reveals 76% of apartment buyers feel an Education Kit would be helpful when buying their next apartment and 75% of respondents said they would like a building inspection prior to purchasing.
Whether you are buying an apartment or buying one off the plan, buyers are now demanding documentation for proof of quality; a water membrane manufacturer’s warranty, an acoustic report and a structural engineer report and if developers can’t supply these documents, AAA is advising buyers to walk away.
Earlier this year, AAA launched Australia’s first dedicated Apartment Awards for Excellence. The Awards were held in Perth and attended by the WA Minister for Housing. 19 properties were recognised for excellence, innovation and leadership in apartment developments. The event was covered by media and industry publications. It is now an annual event and soon to be rolled out Nationally.
AAA is committed to quality apartments. Our mission is to provide advocacy, education and collaboration. The organisation is working on a number of projects to ensure developers and builders meet quality standards. A Six Step Quality Assurance Build is a current project to be delivered early next year.
When buyers are paying over a million dollars for an apartment they deserve a quality build that will last a lifetime. It is our goal to be the force of change, even when Government chooses to relinquish this responsibility.
By Sam Reece
Sam Reece is the Director of PropertyESP and the manager of Australian Apartment Advocacy