Owners left to pick up tab in flammable cladding crisis

The convenor of last month’s Strata Fire Safety Forum says government failure to deal with problems associated with non-complying aluminium cladding has left strata owners to pick up the tab for a problem created by others.

Paul Morton, managing director of strata loans company (and long-time Flat Chat sponsors) Lannock Strata Finance, said the failures had occurred at all three tiers of government from policing of the building code to the approval and certification processes.


Paul Morton explains the problem with
inflammable cladding in this Youtube video


“The Forum revealed the worrying statistic that eight out of 10 buildings with aluminium cladding have non-compliant cladding,” said Mr Morton. “Armed with that information, strata owners should presume that, if their building has aluminium cladding, it is non-compliant unless proven otherwise.

“But they should not wait for a letter from Government or leave it to others in their strata to take action. It is a collective problem requiring collective action. This is a problem that strata owners cannot ignore.

“The NSW Government has identified around 1,000 buildings that could be at risk however, the level of product tampering and outright fraud that our Forum experts have encountered suggests owners can’t rely on paper records.”

Mr Morton said the tardiness of a number of Government inquiries had allowed a bad situation to become worse.

“The Senate inquiry into non-complying building products finally issued an interim report more than two years after it began,” said Mr Morton. “They recommended a total ban on the import of composite aluminium cladding products. Yet while they have been sitting, Australia has undergone a construction boom in which thousands of new apartments have been built with dangerous materials.

“We’ve known it was a risk since the Lacrosse fire in Melbourne in 2014 and yet the matter is only now being taken seriously.”

In the past year City of Sydney has seen the completion of 2,247 apartments, Parramatta 4,916 apartments, the newly formed Bayside Council area, 3,440 apartments and Canterbury Bankstown 1,853 apartments.

Mr Morton said the first priority had to be public safety and for this reason Owners Corporations should work with their strata managers to begin the process of having their buildings inspected and audited for fire safety compliance.

“Rectification of cladding is one issue but consideration should also be given to other solutions to safeguard lives in the event of fire,” said Mr Morton. “Buildings below 25 metres are not required to have sprinklers however owners may decide that it is better to be safe than sorry, particularly if the building has aluminium cladding.”

Mr Morton said it was important that Owners Corporations accessed the very best expert advice.

“Strata owners need to be talking to properly qualified and reputable fire engineers,” said Mr Morton. “They would also be well-advised to seek legal advice for compensation or the recovery of costs.”

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