PODCAST: When defect disaster warnings were covered up


In this week’s episode of the Flat Chat Wrap we look at the claims that the Opal and Mascot towers “disasters” are just the tip of a very large apartment block defects iceberg.

This comes as no surprise to JimmyT and Sue Williams, who have been writing about apartment block defects – and other, happier apartment-related issues – for almost two decades, meeting a response that ranged from complete lack of interest to virtual censorship.

In this episode of the Flat Chat Wrap, Sue recalls the time 15 years ago that a hard news feature on defects almost cost her job, when a (then) property writer saw her newspaper expose on apartment block defects and called a developer mate to warn him.

The developer called the editor and threatened to pull all the company’s advertising if the story went ahead. The editor caved in.  Sue offered her resignation but it was turned down (she is now a freelance writer and author, mostly working for another publication).

That’s just part of the reason that the whole grubby business of building defects, government lack of interest (to the point almost of collusion) and corporate cover-ups have led to the situation we are in now where ordinary people live with the fear that their apartment is going to have serious building problems at some point.

This podcast looks at two of the root causes of the problem – phoenixing and lack of “duty of care” and how they can, together, leave apartment owners with little or no consumer protection.

Phoenixing is when a development company builds an apartment block and then goes into liquidation when the claims for defect rectification come in (if not before). However, a similar company with similar or identical directors can then rise from the ashes of the previous entity and do the same thing over and over again.

“Duty of care” or the lack of it relates to a legal precedent established last year that said builders only have a responsibility to apartment block developers, not to the people who bought the apartments.

One of the legal arguments was that they couldn’t have contract responsibility to the apartment owners through their owners’ corporation (body corporate) since that body didn’t exist when the contracts were signed.

So you can see, remove the developer (who has gone into voluntary liquidation), and the apartment owner is left high and dry.

NSW is planning to create the position of Building Commissioner to deal with these and other problems, including the certification of engineers and developers. We’ll be watching with interest to see how that pans out.

On a happier note, Sue has also been looking at the winners of the NSW Architecture Awards and some of the innovative designs that caught the judges’ eyes. That’s all in theis week’s Flat Chat Wrap:

And on Youtube HERE:


SMH feature on defects

Sue Williams on Architecture awards

Jimmy Thomson’s website

Sue Williams website

Jimmy’s Australian Financial Review columns

2 Replies to “PODCAST: When defect disaster warnings were covered up”

  1. Jimmy-T says:

    This is now being discussed in the Flat Chat Forum

  2. mary says:

    When I showed interest in my apartment when up for sale, Sect 24 plus last B.C. meeting, plus paperwork re cadastrals etc, there were several redacted pages. I did not think of anything untoward. I sent them to my Lawyer as you do. There was no reaction from him regarding the omissions! Did he even look at the whole paperwork? Should he have asked questions? Coincidentally his son had lived in the same apartment block. His only concern was that the garage gate did no close.

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