More protection buying a TV than multimillion-dollar apartment

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BUYERS have more consumer protection buying a $1,000 television than a multimillion-dollar apartment, the Mascot Towers Owners Corporation has told the NSW government inquiry into the regulation of building standards, quality and disputes, which began in Sydney yesterday.

The NSW government had vowed to conduct “the biggest shake-up of the construction industry that New South Wales has ever seen” following to the Mascot Towers incident, which came just months after residents were evacuated at the Opal Tower and another building in Zetland due to structural defects.

Vijay Vital, a resident of the 132-unit Mascot Towers that was evacuated in June, broke down in tears when telling committee of the “trauma” he and his family had experienced.

He said “I am pretty sure not all of us can pay” to $10 million repair bill handed to apartment owners to repair cracks in the building.

“I have done things that are right, we should not be accountable for it.”

Mascot Towers residents are still living in temporary accommodation as repair work continues on the 10-storey building.

“I stand here as a parent as well. My daughter keeps asking, ‘When can I go home?’” Vital said.

“Similar to any Aussie family, we have been paying all our taxes, rates and all due payment.”

David Chandler will begin as the state’s first building commissioner later this week, tasked with investigating misconduct in the building industry. The new appointment was a key recommendation in Shergold Weir report and is part of the NSW government’s pledge to implement the biggest overhaul the construction industry following the Opal and Mascot towers incidents and the ongoing flammable cladding issue.

In a submission to the inquiry, the Mascot Towers Owners Corporation said the state government had failed to establish a sufficiently tough regulatory framework for builders, certifiers and property developers, and the responsibility for repair costs should fall to the government.

“Buyers have more consumer protection buying a $1000 television than a million-dollar apartment,” it said.

The submission highlighted a string of various defects at Mascot Towers prior to the cracking problem that forced the evacuation, including consistently lukewarm water, stormwater flooding and incorrect use of electrical cables, despite which the building was still passed for occupation.

“Our residents have inherited a building with numerous defects … which were originally signed off on by our government, engineers and certifiers as ‘within standards’,” it said.

“Somewhere along the line, maximising profit has become a misinterpretation for ‘delivering quality’.”

“The buck stops with the government. When it goes wrong, they need to put money back in to fix a system they’ve overseen.”

The submission also called for a homeowners’ warranty insurance scheme reintroduced for all strata developments, an extension to the statutory warranty period, and an assistance package for cladding and defects.

NSW Fair Trading customer service representative, Peter Dunphy, told the inquiry an audit commissioned following the evacuation of Opal Towers on Christmas Eve was underway, and that the government was due to meet its targeted review of 25% to 30% of high-risk certification work audited annually.

The Victorian state government last month unveiled a $600 million scheme to rectify private buildings with combustible cladding, ahead of the Building Ministers’ Forum that saw the federal, states and territories governments agree to work together to raise building standards across the country and fix the flammable cladding and structural defect problems, address the professional indemnity insurance crisis.

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