I am involved in major residential unit projects as a building consultant. I can be asked to act on behalf of a buyer of an apartment to inspect building defects or engaged by the builder who is outsourcing the quality assurance component of the project.

As a result, I see what happens from both sides—the buyer and the builder.

Acting on behalf of a client, I am regularly disappointed with the standard of workmanship by the building team. It’s disappointing a buyer having to live with building issues and pay for rectification work that is no longer the responsibility of the builder.

Examples of commonly identified issues:

Structural issues

  • Cracking
  • Settlement

Water ingress issues

  • Leaking balconies
  • Leaking showers
  • Leaking windows and doors
  • Leaking carpark areas

Drainage issues

  • Seepage into internal habitable areas
  • Ponding water on balconies and podiums
  • Efflorescence staining to finishes

Safety issues

  • Non-compliant balustrades
  • Trip hazards
  • Non-compliant stairs

Quality of finishes

  • Sub-standard joinery
  • Poor quality painting
  • Uneven and drummy tiling
  • Scratched and damaged building components

Acting on behalf of a builder and observing a project throughout the build, you understand how we often end up with substandard work at the end. There are all manner of external pressures that lead to this occurring, including:-

  • A builder that is keen to win a project and places a low ball price, or merely a sharp price that they know they may struggle to make a profit. Why? to get the work and nobly to keep their team employed. Then they look at ways to reduce costs through the build while looking for that elusive profit. Opportunities they see in reducing costs are by changing design elements and even structural elements, which can compromise a multitude of things and sometimes lead to structural failure, significant water leaks, and even uninhabitable units or entire buildings.
  • A builder signing up to an unrealistic tight deadline for completion and then rushing to avoid liquidated damages. Rushing results in poor workmanship.
  • The job being affected by weather, bushfires, Covid, and so on, but there is this overhanging menace called liquidated damages. To get the job, a builder signed a contract that provided them with little or no wriggle room for unforeseen circumstances.
  • Some subcontractors and employees don’t have pride in their work and willing to put forward substandard work.
  • Time pressures and cost pressures applied to subcontractors and employees because the builder went in with a low ball price.
  • The conditions that some of the subcontractors are required to work in, for example, they may be working over the top of other subcontractors, in dark rooms with inadequate lighting, dirty and cluttered conditions, and working around scaffolding or other trades.

I know that authorities are desperately trying to get all of this under control. I also know that there are genuine good builders out there that find themselves in the situations I have described above that don’t want to be in these situations. It merely comes down to greed from the top, which applies pressures down the line.  It’s a sad state of affairs that we find many people are in business only to make money and will do whatever it takes to make that happen at the direct detriment of the apartment buyers, builders, staff, and sub-contractors who take the hit for there greed.

I cannot count the number of times both myself and my team members say to builders and contractors, “would you be happy with that quality?”

They don’t answer because the they know the answer would be NO, and they can’t say it. The silence tells the story.

By Bruce Cohen, Director, Surety Property

Bruce Cohen is a Building and Termite expert. Bruce’s expertise is assessing hidden building defects on both residential and commercial properties. Bruce has been in the industry since 2000. Bruce has been a judge for the Master Builders Housing Industry Awards for the Southern region since 2015. He has experience in Expert Witness cases for client claims against faulty building practices.