Shock Report: Canberra’s Apartments are Dodgy

Trev 21 May 2010 34

Scary report here on the ABC quoting both ACTPLA and the Owners Corporation Network … but maybe it’s only scary for me, considering I’m in the market for my very first apartment!

The OCN reckons that there are widespread safety and quality problems with Canberra’s newer apartments, but I’ve heard horror stories associated with developments from well before that time, particularly for people who bought off the plan.

There was another interesting case where a car caught fire (for all I know it was set alight) in an undercroft carpark under some then-new apartments in the inner north. I know this is hearsay, but it seems that there were insufficient fire exits for the apartments directly above, and that some residents were forced to shinny down the balconies to get out. Happy to be contradicted if that’s completely untrue, but it’s a scary story nevertheless.

Apparently the ACT doesn’t have a system of independent building inspectors, meaning that Canberra’s builders are basically a self-regulating body who can put up whatever they like. That’s not so bad if they’re building stuff that’s high-quality, but it’s quite scary in the light of recent allegations allegations of 50+ kilogram chunks of glass dropping from four stories and above.

Has anybody had any horror experiences? Do I sign on the dotted line, or not?


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34 Responses to Shock Report: Canberra’s Apartments are Dodgy
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agent00 agent00 2:29 pm 26 Aug 11

Anyone heard anything about of the following apartments:

– Monarch in Turner
– Space in Turner
– Haig Tower in Turner
– Avenue in Turner

Pooks Pooks 10:25 am 08 May 11

“… I’ve lived in a number of Canberra apartments and my advice is – if you are looking for an entry level apartment as a quick guide do not buy anything built in the last 5 or 6 years AND most importantly, check body corporate records carefully before buying.

This will tell you if there are any problems raised that need fixing and if they were, whether the body corp was unified in fixing them. Residents make a big fuss if there are major construction flaws that need fixing. This will be on record.

If the problem has been fixed, that also tells you that things have been done to make it better than most apartments out there and also there is a will from the onwers to fix things if another problem arises. Go for these apartment blocks if you are in the market for one.

People have to start somewhere when entering the housing market and apartments are still a good way to do it.

This is great advice for future buyers/investors. Thanks!

EvanJames EvanJames 2:36 am 08 May 11

Just don’t buy anything where the developer’s name starts with a K.

Deref Deref 9:38 pm 07 May 11

Another triumph for industry self-regulation – working exactly as it was designed to.

waterlilly waterlilly 8:54 pm 07 May 11

DOMA Group built Viridian. Doma is also building Bridgepoint and Dockside at Kingston Foreshore. They have also built The Realm apartments.

foxygirl foxygirl 11:36 am 16 Jul 10

Wow this is bad news for me as I am looking to buy an apartment to live in, and need something in Civic/Braddon/Turner

Anyone know anything about these blocks that I am looking at:

– Metropoliton in Civic
– The Avenue in Turner
– The Gatsby in Reid
– The Vail in Braddon
– The new apartments at 19 Marcus Clark, Civic

any inside knowledge/tips would be greatly appreciated!

Observing Observing 12:51 pm 24 May 10

2604 said :

Trev – as a former apartment owner and someone who has had dealings with the OCN, my advice is not to consider purchasing a Canberra apartment.

I strongly disagree. I’ve lived in a number of Canberra apartments and my advice is – if you are looking for an entry level apartment as a quick guide do not buy anything built in the last 5 or 6 years AND most importantly, check body corporate records carefully before buying.

This will tell you if there are any problems raised that need fixing and if they were, whether the body corp was unified in fixing them. Residents make a big fuss if there are major construction flaws that need fixing. This will be on record.

If the problem has been fixed, that also tells you that things have been done to make it better than most apartments out there and also there is a will from the onwers to fix things if another problem arises. Go for these apartment blocks if you are in the market for one.

People have to start somewhere when entering the housing market and apartments are still a good way to do it.

54-11 54-11 11:10 am 24 May 10

I couldn’t disagree more, Monday.

A builder holds a licence, which automatically places regulatory requirements on him. He selects, trains and manages the staff (usually subbies) that he employs. He is responsible for ensuring that the work is to the required standard.

In many other jurisdictions (but never in the ACT), his licence is under threat if the work is not carried out properly.

One of the reasons that ACTPLA fails to identify flaws (such as described by GardeningGirl above) is that they then have to do something about it.

Much easier just to deny that there is a problem, sweep it under the carpet and it’s just business as usual for all these shonky operators. Everyone’s happy, except the poor home/apartment owners.

Monday Monday 7:07 am 24 May 10

Not all the builders are dodgey it also has a lot to do with the people that they have working on the jobs. At the end of the day if there are bad trades people working there and the builder misses what they are doing then it slips thruogh to the keeper.

I would buy from a builder that has a interest (financial) in the project them you would notice that they would have to foot the bill when you need to re-do a balcony or bathroom etc.

One such appartment block I can think off is Space on northboure ave I knew a few people that worked on it and there comments were that the builder (not sure who it was but do know it wasn’t a common builder) took pride in there building and finnishes.

GardeningGirl GardeningGirl 7:16 pm 23 May 10

The cat did it said :

If the Greens had any political nous, they would have made an issue out of this certification debacle. Shonky housing wastes construction resources, energy, time and money- so it’s dragging down their other efforts to improve Canberra’s sustainability.

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve thought about the waste as I’ve watched relatively new building materials being carted off to the tip as we endured yet another attempt to solve the problems caused by a leaking shower in our house built by an award-winning builder. Desperate to solve the problem of the persistent bad smell in the adjoining cupboard after the builder’s reluctant “fix” and follow-up work we contacted ACTPLA. They sent someone out who offered the opinion that there was nothing abnormal about a cupboard smelling so bad and the solution to keeping our clothes fresh was to attach lattice to hold the clothes away from touching the walls! The fact that all the cupboards backing onto all the showers in all the previous houses we’d lived in had never smelled like that, and the cupboard in question had not smelled like that for about a year, until the shower leaked, was apparently just a coincidence.

As for commercial buildings, anyone remember the Silverton Building?

el el 3:35 pm 23 May 10

The cat did it said :

Riot Acters- does anyone know if the abysmal standard of construction in private apartments is also prevalent in Canberra office block and other commercial construction? If it’s not, it suggests that there is a failure of construction/approval processes in the accommodation sector, ie approval/certification processes CAN be effective in Canberra.

I’ve only experienced one true ‘new’ office.

Both the roof and the window frames on both floors leaked like a sieve during rainfall, and the basement/carpark regularly flooded. Finished in 2007, I’m not aware of whether or not these problems have ever been fully fixed three years on…

54-11 54-11 1:23 pm 23 May 10

cat, there’s generally (although not always) a quite different process involved, which is why the outcome is usually far better for commercial properties. If a commercial owner decides to have a building constructed, they will employ or instruct a project manager, who will be very familiar with building processes.

This project manager will act on behalf of the owner (not the builder) and will ensure that the agreed plans and regulations are stringently complied with.

This does not happen with apartments that are for sale (even if sold off the plan). There is no-one looking after the owners’ interests – ACTPLA is supposed to but is completely negligent in doing so, and is therefore complicit in all these building failures.

The cat did it The cat did it 10:21 am 23 May 10

Riot Acters- does anyone know if the abysmal standard of construction in private apartments is also prevalent in Canberra office block and other commercial construction? If it’s not, it suggests that there is a failure of construction/approval processes in the accommodation sector, ie approval/certification processes CAN be effective in Canberra.

My guess is that for office blocks there is a single buyer, who is able to enforce an effective inspection and acceptance process and also control progress payments- something that’s impossible in practice for a buyer of a single unit in a large multi-unit development. And don’t the developers know it.

If the Greens had any political nous, they would have made an issue out of this certification debacle. Shonky housing wastes construction resources, energy, time and money- so it’s dragging down their other efforts to improve Canberra’s sustainability.

Hells_Bells74 Hells_Bells74 10:09 am 23 May 10

sepi said :

He isn’t even lying about this though. He is just acting as though ‘the relationship between builders and certifiers’ is none of his business…. will it take something falling over before something is done?

Thanks Sepi, to be honest I probably didn’t really take what he was saying in as much as the way he was just creeping me out. I don’t know, some people just do that to you.

The situation is dire though. I missed King of the Hill, but will admit that was a good episode of Stateline.

redcorella redcorella 12:33 am 23 May 10

moneypenny2612 – I too looked at one for sale in Lagani last year. Quite shocking. From talking to a valuer I found out that the builder of that place won a Master Builders Association award for it. What a joke! So you can’t even trust the ‘industry body’ to promote best practice.

I know someone in a block in Ainslie that regularly leaked water through the living room ceiling. The townhouse I live in (~10yrs old) leaks in the garage during heavy rain as they couldn’t seal the roof against the building well enough.

Starlight complex – gosh that one has a reputation. ‘Ivan the terrible’ = well known developer who skipped town after numerous dubious building shortcuts (he also did Karelia Park). According to one source the apartments didn’t pass the first inspection. There have been numerous water issues there in the last few years, including water seeping through walls thanks to a missing damp course.

Another friend of mine lived in an apartment in Belconnen – balcony had bad drainage so neighbours below copped leaking into their living room. My friend had to endure noisy, dusty, extended jackhammering and re-laying of the balcony twice in the end.

Another friend has no wall insulation in between the main corridor (near the front door) and her place so the wall is like cardboard – she can hear everything being said in the corridor.

One of the places I saw in Bruce (townhouse) had a slab on bad foundations and was slumping in one corner. It was so bad that the external sliding door and the internal kitchen-laundry door opposite didn’t meet the door frame at the top.

I could go on… I am extremely disappointed with the inspectors and the government in ACT for very poor job of regulation. Also, how can a developer go ‘bankrupt’ and then start right up again somewhere else. Buying a caravan is looking more and more appealing 🙂 at least I could take it and live by the beach someday.

sepi sepi 8:37 pm 22 May 10

He isn’t even lying about this though. He is just acting as though ‘the relationship between builders and certifiers’ is none of his business…. will it take something falling over before something is done?

local-loner local-loner 5:25 pm 22 May 10

the article got the picture just right. i’m a renter but have friends that have bought new units and through them i’m working on a list of dodgy builders with no attention to detail that i would never buy from… starting to get worried though because soon my list will cover pretty much all th builders in canberra!

Hells_Bells74 Hells_Bells74 2:38 pm 22 May 10

The cat did it said :

Neil Savery should go into politics- he could give give Joe Hockey a good run for his money in the stonewalling and issue-avoiding department. Maybe someone in the Canberra Times (if anyone is left there) should do an article on how inspections got privatised- then we’ll know which pollies, or ex-pollies, to call to account.
The other part of this that really annoys me is that I could do an acceptable standard job, ie meet all building, electrical and plumbing regulations etc, but am legally prevented from doing so, while clearly deficient tradies continue to operate with impunity, leaving tenants and owners to pick up the tab for their shoddy work.

I couldn’t agree more. He was slimey and creeped me out.

Compulsive liars always buy into their own bs.

pynchon pynchon 11:04 am 22 May 10

The Viridian is questionably built. The plumbing and waterproofing a suspect, and when it rains heavily, water can be heard inside the walls. Extensive maintenance work has been carried to try and rectify car park flooding. Floors are uneven. The list goes on…

2604 2604 8:48 am 22 May 10

Trev – as a former apartment owner and someone who has had dealings with the OCN, my advice is not to consider purchasing a Canberra apartment. The fact is that Canberra builders, even the big ones, are not competent enough to build apartment blocks that don’t leak or subside, and that you will have close to zero effective way to deal with any problems that emerge.

I would especially steer clear of anything built or developed by the following builders and developers.

– DOMA (who developed the Viridian at Kingston Foreshore – the “ensuite with no waterproofing” place referred to in the ABC report)
– Chase (who built Viridian)
– St Hilliers (who developed the Gateway at Kingston Foreshore)
– Consolidated Builders (who developed the Landmark at Barton, which is the building referred to in the ABC report where all those glass panels are splitting and falling off)
– Lend Lease (who built the Gateway and Landmark)

You are infinitely better off saving your money and purchasing a 10-20 year old house, where you will at least get the assurance of a building inspection report and be able to inspect the place before you buy.

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