Owners of damaged Sydney apartment building face huge repair bill

Author
news.com.au,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 18 June 2019, 4:08PM
The evacuation has reignited the debate about the integrity of Sydney’s high-density living. Photo / Monique Harmer

The owners of the Mascot Towers are about to be hit with a million-dollar emergency repairs levy, that is predicted to increase to $5.5 million by the time all the repair works are completed on the troubled towers.

The building was evacuated on Friday night due to serious concerns regarding cracks in the primary support structure and facade masonry.

The building, in the city’s south, was vacated on Friday night after engineers became concerned about cracks in the primary support structure and facade masonry of the 10-year-old building on Bourke Street.

The building is no longer under warranty, which lasts for six years after the construction is completed. Following this, it falls to the owners to cover costs for building repairs.

Minutes from an extraordinary meeting scheduled for owners at Mascot Towers outline immediate costs of $1 million to be raised by the owners in just over six weeks, with a projected cost blowout of $4.1 million.

News.com.au understands that this estimate, put together by a team of engineers, is not complete as it’s not yet been put to tender. Owners have been told the full cost of repairs could reach $5.5 million.

One apartment owner in the building has told news.com.au that their bank has declined a new application for a mortgage because of the state of the towers, and they plan to declare bankruptcy.

The meeting organised by Strata Choice will be held on Thursday night.

The agenda provided to news.com.au details the massive and compulsory costs to be raised by unit owners in the cracking towers, as immediate remedial repairs are set to begin.

A million-dollar strata fee has been set, with a deadline of August 1. That’s just over six weeks from now.

With 122 units at Mascot Towers, each owner faces a bill of $8196 to raise the $1 million needed for urgent repairs.

The special levy is for “slip joint defects, additional costs to emergency propping and engineering”.

The fees will also pay for lawyers, administrative fees, a newly-hired media liaison, and “other costs”.

The levy needs 75 per cent of owners to approve it to go through.

Once these emergency works are completed, the building can be deemed safe and residents should be able to return to their home, according to the agenda.

While the initial cost payable has been labelled $1 million, a quantity surveyor “has estimated the quantum of the works at $4.1 million,” according to the document.

The works detailed include extensive works to the ground, upper ground and first floor slabs, including new joint installation and slab reinstatement.

A panel of experts, including Mascot Towers’ appointed engineer, building management, strata management and committee members, building construction lawyers, NSW Fair Trading and an insurance broker, will take questions from owners on Thursday night.

An apartment owner in the towers has told news.com.au that when he contacted the bank about extending his loan he was denied.

“Because of the current state of the building (I was told) they cannot increase the loan size,” he told news.com.au.

He said the difficult experience is an unprecedented one for the country.

“No one in Australia has had this experience,” he told news.com.au. “We are not the same as the Opal (Tower), we have no warranty.”

The Opal Tower in Homebush was evacuated on Christmas Eve in 2018 due to cracking of the panelling, after residents reported hearing loud banging. Opal Towers, completed in 2018, fell under manufacturer’s warranty.

The apartment owner from Mascot Towers said after consulting with a lawyer, bankruptcy looked easier than paying an unknowable amount of fees to Mascot Towers’ strata management, while repairs were made.

“When you buy a house, it’s all there. But suddenly it’s all gone. But not only that, I have to go into bankruptcy.”

A resident of the building, who only wanted to be identified as Ms Lim, yesterday told news.com.au she was “shocked” at the lack of information being provided to her, as meetings and information was only being made available to owners in the building.

Since Friday, the locks on the building had been changed, and the building had been barricaded and patrolled by security while her possessions remained inside.

Updates in the days that followed announced about half of the 122 units are considered partly accessible and residents can re-enter briefly to collect personal items under escort from management and security.

Before the evacuation on Friday, Ms Lim had been notified by the building’s manager’s, Building Management Australia, that her car space would be taken for the next 24 months by building props placed in the carpark.

They were told it was “urgent” they move their car within 48 hours, but weren’t informed it was because the building was rapidly deteriorating.

Nine days later, the building was evacuated.

The evacuation has reignited the debate about the integrity of Sydney’s high-density living just months after the Opal Tower, in Homebush Bay, faced a similar structural defect.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday promised legislation to overhaul the building and construction industry would be introduced to parliament this week with a view of passing by the end of the year.

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