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Report reveals extent of unit block defects

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For the past two years or more, a team of top academics based at UNSW’ s City Futures Research Centre has been investigating defective apartment construction in NSW.

In a week where another apartment block was on the point of being evacuated due to fears about defects in its construction, their findings make chilling reading.  The following is extracted from a summary of their report published in The Conversation.


Defects in apartment buildings are commonplace, says the UNSW report, with just over half of Sydney’s apartments having at least one type of defect, while more than one in four had at least three different defects.

It also says that the combination of it being “impossible for buyers to know whether the apartment they are buying is good quality” and a market based on the idea of “buyer beware”, represents “a clear case of market failure”.

The report says it has been very difficult to get reliable figures on just how common building defects in apartments are, but they collected information for a random sample of 635 strata schemes completed between 2008-2017 across three Sydney local government areas.

They found 51 per cent had at least one type of building defect, 28 per cent had at least three types of defects, and 12 per cent had more than 10 different types of defects.

They also interviewed 66 industry experts: “only three said they didn’t think defects had become more common in recent decades,” says the report.

“While these findings are worrying, we believe our figures are actually conservative estimates of the true number of defects in strata schemes, given the difficulty we had getting detailed records,’ says the article in the Conversation.

“For many buildings in our sample, we couldn’t locate reliable information about whether defects existed or not, despite having a team of researchers working on the task and considerable support from our industry partners.”

The researchers believe NSW has a serious problem with “information asymmetry”, with sellers having far more information than buyers about the underlying quality of the apartments for sale.

“This puts [buyers] at real risk of buying a property with defects, which they will then be responsible for fixing,” which can put significant stress on people’s health and finances, not to mention posing serious safety risk, or leaving owners with a property they can’t sell.

On a more positive note, the Office of the Building Commissioner has introduced new laws and provided more oversight of the construction industry, and the early evidence is that building quality is improving.

“This means fewer owners should have to struggle with rectifying defects in future (if you’re in this situation right now, this how-to guide may help).”

The article concludes: “To protect all owners and residents, we also need to make sure that when buildings have defects, it’s easier to find out about them and understand their impact. Buyers should be able to factor this in when considering a property. And owners who have defects should get more support from government to get them fixed.”

“With one in five NSW households living in private apartments (plus more in public housing), the safety and security of apartment living needs to be a top government priority.”

You can read The Conversation piece in full HERE and downoad the full UNSW report HERE.


The UNSW report for its City Futures Research Centre was compiled by Dr Laura Crommelin, Dr Sian Thompson, A/Prof Hazel Easthope, Prof Martin Loosemore, Hyungmo Yang, Dr Caitlin Buckle and Prof Bill Randolph.

The Conversation website sets out to combine “academic rigour” with “journalistic flair” and is well worth a look for its intelligent and authoritative reporting, especially at a time when so much misinformation and deliberately misleading disinformation is directed at some of the most critical issues in our lives.

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