Government failure to deal with problems associated with non-complying aluminium cladding has created a massive trust deficit with strata owners left to pick up the tab for a problem of others’ creation.
The failures have occurred at all three tiers of government from policing of the building code to the approval and certification processes.
The recent Strata Fire Safety Forum revealed the worrying statistic that eight out of 10 buildings with aluminium cladding have non-compliant cladding. Armed with that information, strata owners should presume that if their building has aluminium cladding it is non-compliant unless proven otherwise.
Strata owners should not wait for a letter from Government or leave it to others in their strata to take action. It is a collective problem requiring collective action. This is a problem that strata owners cannot ignore.
The NSW Government has identified around 1,000 buildings that could be at risk however, the level of product tampering and outright fraud that our Forum experts have encountered suggests owners can’t rely on paper records.
The tardiness of a number of Government inquiries has allowed a bad situation to become worse.
The Senate inquiry into non-complying building products finally issued an interim report more than two years after it began. They recommended a total ban on the import of composite aluminium cladding products. Yet while they have been sitting, Australia has undergone a construction boom in which thousands of new apartments have been built with dangerous materials. We’ve known it was a risk since the Lacrosse fire in Melbourne in 2014 and yet the matter is only now being taken seriously.
In the past year City of Sydney has seen the completion of 2,247 apartments, Parramatta 4,916 apartments, the newly formed Bayside Council area, 3,440 apartments and Canterbury Bankstown 1,853 apartments.
The first priority has to be public safety and for this reason Owners Corporations should work with their strata managers to begin the process of having their buildings inspected and audited for fire safety compliance.
Rectification of cladding is one issue but consideration should also be given to other solutions to safeguard lives in the event of fire.
Buildings below 25 metres are not required to have sprinklers however owners may decide that it is better to be safe than sorry, particularly if the building has aluminium cladding. It is important that Owners Corporations access the very best expert advice.
Strata owners need to be talking to properly qualified and reputable fire engineers. They would also be well-advised to seek legal advice for compensation or the recovery of costs.
Contact Lannock for more information on financing options for strata fire safety compliance.