The government’s new regulations on building defects may have come back to bite them on the bum, with owners of apartments in the infamous Opal Tower in Sydney suing the State over 500 alleged defects.
According to stories in the Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review, owners in the Olympic Park high-rise are suing the state government after discovering new defects in the 36-storey apartment building.
Partly as a result, just last month, at the behest of new Building Commissioner David Chandler, the government passed new legislation establishing a continuing duty of care for everyone involved in the design and construction of new apartment buildings.
What that means is that everyone from the architect through the certifier to the developer and builder, has to take responsibility for their part in the construction of a high-rise.
Owners corporation chairman Shady Eskander said the Olympic Park Authority, the state government entity which owns the land on which Opal Tower sits, was the developer under the Home Building Act and therefore liable for the defects in the apartment building.
The owners corproation, representing almost 400 apartment owners, has filed separate legal proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW against Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA) and the builder, Icon, after 12 experts found additional defects in the common areas of the Opal Tower. They include issues with mechanical, hydraulic and fire-safety problems.
“We have suffered incomprehensible loss and disruption to our lives. Unfortunately, we have now discovered that our losses are much greater,” Mr Eskader told the SMH.
“The NSW state government has directly made millions from the sale of apartments in this development.”
Mr Eskander said the costs sought for damages would probably run into the millions of dollars but the owners would not know the extent until a full report by experts was commissioned.
The owners also claim the new defects have pushed their insurance premiums up to $1.1 million this year, which they also want the government to cover.
“We realised that we did not pay the builder and did not have a contract with the builder. We bought our property from the state government,” Mr Eskander told the AFR.
“But the NSW state government had hidden this fact away during the last 18 months.”
Mr Eskander said the owners corporation only had two years to uncover all the defects so they brought 12 experts to go through other aspects of the development.
In fact, new apartment owners have two years to discover non-major defects and six years to claim on major defects.
And it’s not unusual for a building of that size to have numerous minor defects that good developers would normally fix in the first couple of years without question.
However, it seems the cracking panels that prompted the Christmas Eve evacuation were not the only major defects in the block.
“The government made us focus on the panel that gave way on Christmas Eve of 2018, but now, we realised this was just the tip of the iceberg,” Mr Eskander told the AFR.