Apartment owners in the troubled Mascot Towers will be forced to foot a hefty bill to pay for structural repairs, as the tower development is too old to come under warranty protection.
An owner’s rights advocate has told the ABC that owners in poorly constructed buildings that show signs of damage after the warranty period of six years has lapsed will find themselves footing the bill for hefty structural building repairs.
Mascot Towers was evacuated on Friday night after engineers became increasingly concerned about cracks in the primary support structure and facade masonry of the decade-old building in the inner southern Sydney suburb of Mascot.
Residents were told to be ready to leave at short notice, and a temporary structural support was urgently installed on Thursday after building management noticed the cracks were widening.
Building defects in NSW are covered under manufacturer warranty for six years after construction. Following this, the burden of paying for all repairs falls to the owners.
Those who own their apartments in the 10-year-old Mascot Towers will now be faced with a hefty bill, likely paid for with compulsory strata levies.
“Consumers have nowhere to go in these sorts of situations, there’s nobody for them to sue, there’s nowhere for them to turn,” Stephen Goddard, a spokesman for the Owners Corporation Network, told the ABC.
“Anybody looking to purchase in a building less than 10 years of age is foolish because the defects will not have yet surfaced.
“People have more consumer protection buying a fridge than a million-dollar apartment.”
Mr Goddard said prospective buyers should not assume any modern apartment building had been built to code and advised against buying off the plan.
Even after pricey repairs are paid for, these buildings can become “toxic” to new buyers after highly publicised safety or structural events.
Mr Goddard said “ever-increasing” property prices had “wallpapered” over the issue of structural defects.
“We’re now seeing owners confronted with the possibility that their investment … may be lower than their outstanding mortgage,” he said.
Other industry leaders have pointed to an outdated system that has allowed dodgy operators to flourish without adequate accountability.
“We are working under a 20-year-old system. In modern Australia we need to move with the times and we just haven’t. The building industry has let everyone down,” Builders Collective of Australia president Phil Dwyer told Today this morning.
“Consumer protection is virtually worthless, and we just want complete reform of the industry, such as registering all professionals and trades and proper consumer protection, together with accountability, right throughout our building industry, which is not there at the moment.
“It’s all handballed from one thing to another on a merry-go-round. It is a disgrace what we are doing to our building consumers, and we are such a big industry, that just shouldn’t happen.
“It is just disgraceful what we have done to those residents, throwing them out on the street without any support, let alone what we have done to their building’s value.”
Roughly half the residents of the Sydney apartment complex, which was evacuated after cracks appeared, will not even be able to return home to collect personal items for at least a week.
Sixty-four of the 122 units are in the partly-accessible zone and tenants have been told they “may be accessed for a short period of time to collect personal effects only with escort by the building manager” by appointment from today.
All of the other units fall in the non-accessible zone and cannot be entered at any time, along with carparks and recreational areas, including a Thai restaurant, IGA Express and a cafe.
A meeting of owners is likely to be held this week.