Building Defects: A Community Issue For Your Owners Corporation

Building Defects: A community issue

Building defects are a community issue.

They take a team of committed and united lot owners to co-create solutions and forge a successful path to rectification.

Factions of fractured owners with different goals and agendas will never get their building’s issues sorted.

Your Owners Corporation is the body that enables all owners to work together to solve the issues that affect the entire community within a building – owners, occupants, managing agents and everyone in between.

Your Owners Corporation’s committee is the collection of owners within your Owners Corporation elected to represent all other owners in good faith.

Your committee will play a vital role in helping to steer the defect rectification process as efficiently and thoroughly as possible and as a lot owner, you have every right to remain informed of how that process is tracking.

Strata Plan has helped a number of Owners Corporations through defect rectification processes and from experience have found those who have the most success are those who work together in a cohesive and collaborative manner.

They meet regularly to discuss their biggest causes for concern, rely on experts to provide the evidence they need and approach the original developer and builder – the people they need to return to the development – in a respectful manner.

Buildspect Consulting, with over 40 years of building consultation experience in conducting thorough building inspections, VCAT compliant defect reports giving expert evidence in court agrees that community is crucial to any defect rectification process.

RECOGNISING THE NEED FOR A COMMUNAL APPROACH

Buildspect principle John Coghlan told Strata Plan that before an Owners Corporation embarks on a defect rectification process it’s important to get the facts as soon as possible.

While most owners are able to spot potential issues, few are building experts.

“Most people have grown up in a house, so most people know when something isn’t quite right.

“So most people have the knowledge to list items of concern. A lot of people just want to go down that path [of making their own list of alleged defects].

“The problem is that there are a whole lot of things that don’t get identified and the things that are identified may not have the right reasons listed with tem as to why they are a defect associated with them.

“A community should get an expert in as soon as they can to get a report done and once it’s completed, they should sit down as a group and go over it so they can understand it.

“They need to be able to ask questions, even if it’s something that’s been deemed not a defect and they thought it would be.”

Mr. Coghlan said that issues with a building are either a defect, a maintenance issue or a product of wear and tear.

A defect is only present if the issue is the product of poor workmanship, is not compliant or isn’t fit for purpose, and to label something a defect, you have to know what about that issue makes it a defect.

“There’s very clear differences as to what is and isn’t a defect and if you can come together as a group, as one unity as opposed to all these different minds, it will help everyone to work together to resolve the issues.”

PUTTING THE COLLECTIVE FIRST

Dealing with building defects can be a frustrating and emotional period for lot owners, occupants and neighbours alike.

But it’s always important to keep in mind that if you are affected by a building defect, then so are a lot of others in your building.

If you are not affected, it’s worth thinking about how you would feel if you were, or if the defects others are affected by could one day impact the rest of the building if left on its own, or how they will affect the market value of everyones property.

“The difference between a street and a building is that I might have a leak in my house on a street that’s not really going to affect my neighbour,” Mr. Coghlan explained.

“In an apartment building, I my balcony is leaking, it’s going to affect my neighbour below me. Conversely, if my neighbour above me has a leak in their balcony, it’s going to affect me.

“So whilst I am the person with water coming onto my balcony and I might have the right to say, ‘how dare you,’ we need to work together to resolve the issue because it’s affecting both of us.

“If we all work together, it’s going to be a nicer place to live.”

AN INFORMED COMMUNITY IS A PREPARED COMMUNITY

So often we see examples of committees taking the reins of their defect rectification process, without consulting the wider community they represent.

This might seem a more efficient way of getting things done, but it takes everyone’s contributions – be they financial or otherwise – to make things happen in an Owners Corporation.

So it’s always important that all lot owners are constantly communicated to during a defects process.

“It’s crucial,” Mr. Coghlan said.

“You’ll have different levels of understanding from people outside the committee.

“And there’s nothing to hide. You have got to have everyone on board because everyone is going to have to spend their own money to put in the pot to make this work.

“Whether it be to go to court, whether it be to fix and resolve the issues, whether it be to hire specialist consultants to get the facts, it effects everyone.”

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