The Opal Tower saga – how it has shaken the building and construction industry

Let’s take a bird’s eye view of what happened, how the NSW government is addressing the issue and what building owners need to keep in mind to protect their property, pocket and peace of mind.

 

What happened at the Opal Tower:

  • On Christmas eve, the holiday spirit was dampened for residents of the Opal Tower in Sydney’s Olympic park as they heard loud noises from the building and rushed outside fearing their safety.

 

  • Cracks were found in the walls of the 10th storey apartment of the relatively new 34-storey high-rise Sydney Olympic Park building. Further investigations also revealed structural issues in the 4th and 16th floors of the building as well and there are doubts about the stability of the building’s foundation.

 

  • It was found that the building’s cantilevered balconies have been sagging gradually along the on the outer edges. This has caused cracks to open in the walls of the building.

 

  • About 51 apartments were evacuated while investigations are being extensively carried out to find the level of risk. The residents’ interim stay was arranged in nearby Sydney hotels but that could possibly stretch on for months while investigations continue.

 

  • The builder and developer maintain that the building’s foundations are stable, and the apartments are safe for re-entry. However, building owners are questioning the safety of returning to their apartments until they’re assured of its safety.

 

  • Apartment owners fear the value of their property may have taken a plunge financially due to the fault in the building – this raises questions about the financial pitfall of investing in luxury apartments that are built in haste or with sub-standard material. 9 News covered the Opal Tower story in 60 Minutes that highlights how gaps in the Australian building and construction industry is fuelling the housing crisis.

 

  • As the debate continues around the responsibilities of all the stakeholders in the building project, this incident has set a precedent calling for further probe into the safety and compliance status of many other recent multi-story strata buildings in the state.

 

  • Through the month of January, further findings revealed there could be deeper issues with regard to the stability of the building – the integrity of the foundational structures and the underlying land is being examined by experts.

 

What the NSW Government is doing to mitigate the issue:

 

  • The NSW government has appointed two Sydney University professors to provide an unbiased report of the Opal Tower’s status and factors contributing to its failure.

 

  • The government is also looking into the compliance status of the builders, developers and certifiers involved in the high-rise strata buildings across the state, while revisiting the legislation to strengthen building regulations and address gaps in compliance

 

  • The government assures that up to 30 per cent of certification work will be audited in NSW every year

 

  • There are talks of a new disciplinary policy from the government that will hold corrupt certifiers accountable for building compliance failures and ban those who breach the industry code of conduct from working on new buildings for a year.

 

What strata property owners should do:

Your property is your asset and responsibility. So, here are a few things you should prioritise, so you can protect your property, pocket and peace of mind:

  1. Stay updated on state laws regarding building compliance and keep an eye on dates and deadlines
  2. Keep a copy of your property’s compliance and certification status
  3. Watch out for building defects and inform your owners corporation
  4. Understand what type of defects they may be, who is responsible for fixing them, who should pay for the costs from repairs and who to go to in times of crisis
  5. Know your rights as an owner and be aware of any warranty covers for your property
  6. If your complaints and concerns go unheard from developers and builders with regard to the warranty cover, reach out to fair trading to get clarity and settle disputes
  7. Have adequate insurance cover to protect your strata property – know what insurances have already been taken by your owners corporation and consult with insurance experts to know what other kinds of insurance you may need to take as a lot owner
  8. Reach out to your strata manager if you have questions and understand how you can take their help

 

You can also read this article on Queensland and Victoria property owners are likely to be affected by the changes in state regulation around compliance gaps. To stay in the know about what’s happening in your state, subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.

 

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