Building surveyors, architects and fire engineers will all have to compensate builders LU Simon up to $12.5 million for the cost of repairing and replacing flammable cladding on Melbourne’s Lacrosse tower.
But the French backpacker who started the fire by not properly stubbing out a cigarette end will not have to pay his $377,000 share of the damages.
Last Thursday (Feb 28), Judge Woodward at the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) handed down his decision on who must pay specific shares of the costs of the fire damage and replacing all the panels at the Lacrosse building in Melbourne, where cladding on 13 floors went up in flames in November 2014.
Damage worth $377,000 was attributed to French backpacker Jean-Francois Gubitta whose cigarette started the fire. However, since no party claimed costs against Gubitta, no orders were made against him and he will not have to pay.
Gubitta was staying in a six-bunk mini-hostel in a two-bedroom flat. He was in Australia on a working Visa and has since returned to France.
Meanwhile, although the builder, LU Simon, was required to pay a total of more than $12.5 million to the owners to repair damage and replace flammable cladding panels on the building, which suffered a serious fire four years ago, Judge Woodward then passed the costs back to those he ruled were responsible.
LU Simon will initially pay the owners corporation and the 209 strata owners $5.748 million to reinstate the damage caused by the fire and for the additional insurance premiums on the building, writes our good friend, business and property lawyer Tony Cordato. They also have to pay up to $6.823 million for removal and reinstatement of the rest of the cladding
However, LU Simon will be compensated by the various professionals who advised and instructed them before and during the construction. The divvy up was as follows:
- The building surveyor, Gardner Group to pay 33% of that amount to LU Simon
- The architect, Elenberg Fraser to pay 25% of that amount to LU Simon
- The fire engineer, Thomas Nicolas to pay 39% of that amount to LU Simon
- The smoking backpacker had the final 3% responsibility but LU Simon will have to wear that as no costs were awarded against him or the landlord of the mini-hostel.
The sharing of blame and apportioning of costs illustrates the stark financial reality behind NSW Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean’s announcement that he was going to amend NSW building law to establish a continuing “duty of care”.
You can read Tony Cordato’s full analysis of the ruling here.