What should I do if my strata has building defects?

Published: Monday 11 November 2019

There are many nightmare stories out there as to owners who tried to pursue the original builder, whether still around or not (ie dead or overseas), and those that chose to bite the bullet and fix the property themselves and what that cost them.  So how do you decide what is best for your group of owners?

 

At Progressive Strata Services, we always try our best to ensure owners make an informed decision - in this area of building defects – it requires two things to be presented to the Owners Corporation:

 

  1. i) A litigation compliant report from an experienced and qualified engineer (we do not use building consultants as engineers have far more knowledge and training when it comes to building construction), which reflects the defects you are entitled to have fixed under the various legal provisions of the Home Building Act 1989; and,
  2.  
  3. ii) A lawyer who can indicate which court you may find yourself in should you choose to litigate, what time you have to make a decision as to which course to take (as there are time bars in the legislation by which you have to have commenced proceedings), and for them to brief the engineer as to how to how to prepare the report to achieve the best outcome in court, in case you choose to go that way.

 

So if you have water penetration, or cracks in the building, it is very important to go to your committee and discuss these issues without delay.  Your committee are elected at each annual general meeting, so look up the minutes of the last meeting and see who those people are.   Hopefully some, if not all, live in the building and you can go and see them (eg leave a note under their door).

 

Alternatively, you may need to leave a note in the Secretary’s box at the scheme, indicating you have concerns about the building construction, and request to have a chat. Provide your email address and phone number so they can contact you at their convenience.

 

In discussing the above two points with your committee, hopefully at a meeting, things can be organised quickly to best insure your interests, in the short and long term, are protected.  

 

There can be no doubt that the cost of the report from your consultant can seem expensive, likewise the legal advice, but it will be only a small cost compared to what it will cost to fix the building yourselves. So it is important to know everything that is wrong, and how much you will be giving up if you choose to rectify things yourselves, and what that likely cost would be. Only then can you make an informed decision as to the path you wish to take over the coming years.

 

Should you choose not to litigate, some things may need fixing urgently, and others can be done over an extended time frame.  We have scheme’s that worked these less urgent things into their Capital Works Assessment with the co-operation of their consultant guiding them as to when things should be completed and the likely cost. This helps those who want to sell out, as purchasers can see what their future commitment will be to see those items rectified, slowly bringing the property up to a proper standard, and thus adding value each year. This also provides owners a way to manage this responsibility to fix the building, with minimal financial stress.

 

Make no mistake, litigation is very expensive and goes on for many years. There is never a clear winner. The judge will find only some things in your favour, but never all. 

 

So, if your builder seems like he is co-operative, as there are those out there who want to do the right thing, then working with the right consultant who may be able to “get him across the line” with a settlement to return and rectify things properly, and have the work signed off as satisfactorily completed by YOUR consultant, then you can save yourselves a lot of heartache, time and money.

 

If however, you have a builder in denial as to his responsibilities to your scheme, then you may have little choice but to litigate or repair yourselves.

 

Whichever way you choose to go, you must stay the course. As in litigation, to withdraw down the track may see you with a cost order to pay for the other sides lawyers defending the case you brought against them. Likewise, if you start to fix your building, you may not have suitably documented things to commence proceedings in court, or, you may also find yourself out of time.

 

Gathering the right information from the right professions is key to choosing how purchasing into a building with defects affects you and your financial future.

 

We are happy to chat and provide general advice should you find that your committee or your strata manager is not co-operating in addressing your concerns on this matter.

Contact us today on 02 9389 9599 to discuss your building defect.

 

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