A new interactive, user-friendly online guide will help current and future apartment owners discover and deal with building defects, say its authors.
Launched this week, the step-by-step guide, devised by academic researchers in conjunction with strata managers, will help apartment owners and building managers identify and ultimately rectify defects in unit blocks.
The authors say this free consumer-friendly online tool, which provides information based on where you are in the defect rectification process – including before you’ve even started – is the first of its kind in Australia.
How it works
The way it works is that it asks a series of questions to find out basic information about how far along the defects road you’ve gone. Then, at each stage, depending on your answers, automatically downloads fact sheets that tell you what you need to do next with advice on how to do it.
“It’s an informative guide to support strata property owners and purchasers worried about whether there are defects in an apartment building, and for owners who need more information on how to rectify defects in their strata scheme,” says Dr Laura Crommelin, Senior Lecturer at UNSW City Futures Research Centre, in a press release issued this week.
“It will help owners to know what they should be thinking about, who they should be talking to, what sort of risks they should be looking at, as well as how to find out who is responsible for existing building defects.
‘It can be hard for owners to find all the information they need to deal with defects; this guide is a tool that helps buyers and owners navigate that information asymmetry.”
The guide complements recent changes to apartment building regulations for new developments, by focusing on consumers already in buildings impacted by defects.
“It’s essential that we … also support owners and residents in buildings that already have defect problems or will find they have issues in the years ahead. Defects can take time to become apparent, and owners need to be proactive in dealing with them,” Dr Crommelin says.
Strata Community Association (NSW), the peak body for strata managers and service providers believes this guide could be a ‘game changer’.
SCA (NSW) President Chris Duggan says the last few months have been a historic step forward for the strata industry in New South Wales; a sharp contrast for the sector which has been notoriously plagued by defects.
“With the state’s reforms and the Building Commissioner reshaping construction quality, this guide complements the retrospective effort of the strata industry in educating managers and assists consumers to deal with the practical realities of defects.”
“We are honoured to have helped fund and be associated with the development of the guide, as it will have important implications for the future of the strata industry,” Mr Duggan said.
Martin Loosemore, Professor of Construction Management at UTS, says defects in apartment buildings have been a concern in NSW for many years and we should expect more will be affected in the future.
“Parts of the industry have been worried about building defects for some time before Opal Tower put it on the political map,” Prof. Loosemore said.
The Defects Rectification Guide has been developed as a first point of contact for owners and stakeholders who are worried about defects in apartment buildings.
Dr Crommelin says the guide will be useful at all stages throughout the process of defect rectification, from the initial discovery of potential issues through to getting them fixed.
“You can pick up at different stages of the guide, so it will help people find what they need depending on where they’re at in the process.
“Major defects are the ones that are the main point of concern for owners, and a lot of the advice is particularly relevant if you’re dealing with significant issues, where there’s lots of cost and complexity about getting it fixed,” she says.
“The reality of strata is that the cost is a shared, collective financial responsibility, and it can be complicated to agree on an approach … which is what this guide aims to assist with.”
While the guide is most useful for current and potential strata apartment owners, renters could also find the guide beneficial for clarifying rights and responsibilities.
“It highlights the obligations apartment owners have to ensure that the building is in good condition,” Dr Crommelin says. “So, if you’re a tenant living in a building that isn’t in good condition, it could be a resource to help you have a conversation with the landlord about that responsibility.
“Ultimately, there’s a benefit for everyone involved in understanding their obligations better,” she adds.
The introduction to the guide, which can be accessed here, says it has been developed for strata residents and owners in NSW. However, if you live outside of the state, you may still find it useful, although you will need to check the local laws, regulations and service providers in your jurisdiction.
Watch the webinar
Click on the image to watch the Youtube video of the explanatory webinar featuring project leader Dr Laura Cromelin, Matthew Press of the Office of Building Commissioner, and SCA (NSW) president Chris Duggan
The guide was developed by Caitlin Buckle, Sian Thompson, Hazel Easthope, Laura Crommelin, Martin Loosemore and Bill Randolph at UNSW Sydney, with input from research partners at Strata Community Association (NSW), Strata Community Insurance, Australian College of Strata Lawyers (with special thanks to Allison Benson), Lannock Strata Finance, Ross Taylor & Associates and the Owners Corporation Network of Australia (OCN).
The research was funded by Strata Community Association (NSW) and an Australian Research Council Grant.