With the home unit building fervour in NSW in full swing, the occurrence of substantial defects in new construction continues unabated. It is common for large scale apartments of 100 units of more to have defects costing $5 million to $15 million to fix. The process of getting the builder, develop or insurer to fix the issues often drags on for 4 to 6 years. Many Strata Owners end up paying for the repairs themselves after protracted efforts get the Develop, Architect, Engineer or Builder to fess up. New owners are often stunned that there can be so little consumer protection.
Into this frame we see the recent and the proposed changes to NSW strata building laws. These changes enable bold press releases promising that effective regulatory reform has at last arrived. However a reading reveals a different story. Unfortunately these changes are of the Placebo type and follows a well worn track of ineffective legislation here in NSW and elsewhere. NSW is not alone. One apartment complex in the ACT has recently been left high and (not so) dry to the tune of $20 million of defects after a wealthy local developer shut down the legal entity responsible.
Ineffective legislation is at the heart of the alarming rise in defects and defect disputes. There has been a gradual depletion of consumer protection by the NSW and other Government legislators over the last 20 years. Into the void step short term, profit focused developers unhindered by any effective regulatory sanctions nor encouraged by any sensible proactive regulatory supports. So what is the origin of the defects?
The defects that cause the most grief are water penetration, building cracking and inadequately fire resistant materials. We find that these defects mostly have their origins in the decisions and directions of the developer or developer / builder. They have their expression in poor building practices but these are usually effects and not causes. Essentially we find that building failure, defective workmanship and use of inappropriate materials is the effect of developer centric behaviours.