It’s a problem affecting thousands of new apartment owners across Australia. For many families, this is their only asset and they never expected to lose it. There is a crisis of confidence and it will take years for this trust to be restored.
The building industry has lost all credibility and the government seems to not know what to do. People are being asked to evacuate their apartments taking with them a few important possessions—no, not because of natural disasters, but because their buildings were not properly constructed and they are at risk of collapsing.
Anything from poor designs to a lack of integrity is to blame for the disaster. The crisis is systemic and it’s affecting lots of buildings all over the country.
Because apartment owners only have about 5 or 6 years to sue the builder for major structural damage, many feel that they have no options to protect themselves. If they have to pay for repairs out of their own pockets many of them might go bankrupt. Even if the defects are caught on time, suing the builders is out of the question; in Australia, builders don’t need insurance if the building is over three stories high.
A study published in June 2019 describes the extent of the problem and the figures are staggering; about 97% of buildings in certain areas have at least one defect. The problem starts at the drawing board with the developer. A common practice is to use big-name architects to give the projects sales appeal. Once they have the pre-sales they cut out the named architect and work with an unqualified person to finish the designs.
One forensic engineer admits that he has never seen a building that isn’t defective in some way. He sees first hand the consequences of cost-cutting and poor designs. He also attributes the mediocrity to certifiers not doing a thorough enough revision. But certifiers have an entirely different point of view.