- The Strata Community Association (Vic) represents about 80% of all professional owners corporations managers across the state
- SCA Vic President said incidents such as the Miami building collapse reiterate need for greater transparency
- He has suggested three ways to alleviate concerns felt by strata owners and residents
Victorian strata owners and occupiers have faced shortcomings when assessing the upkeep of their buildings, argues Gregor Evans, the President of the Strata Community Association (SCA) Vic.
With almost 800 members, SCA (Vic) represents over 80% of all professional owners corporations managers.
Mr Evans noted that the Lacrosse Building Fire in Docklands in 2014, along with the recent fatal collapse of an apartment complex in Miami, Florida, has highlighted the pervasive issue of building defects. He argues this is a reality facing those living with multi-unit dwellings.
In the case of the Surfside apartment in Miami, although works were scheduled to commence before its collapse, a report from October 2018 revealed that there was cracking in the concrete and rebar structures, which had risen from corrosive saltwater currents and water leakage in the area.
He said the tragedy had reiterated the need for owners and residents to have greater access to information and documentation surrounding the operation and maintenance of their buildings.
“In a Victorian context, owners and occupiers within strata have faced consistent shortcomings in the process of best keeping their buildings, and with these, their livelihoods, well maintained and intact, as a by-product of lacking access to base building information,” said Mr Evans
So, what can be done to address these shortcomings?
Mr Evans listed three steps the Victorian government can take.
1. Invest into expanding building active management system (BAMS)
Mr Evans said expanding BAMS into a portal would be a “game-changer” for the rights of strata consumers with greater access to construction, design and maintenance records.
He notes that this strategy would facilitate a proactive response to defects – as opposed to reactive.
“BAMS operates at present as a platform for accepting and processing building permit number applications, compulsory monthly reports from relevant building surveyors and payment of levies.
“By way of its design, the capacity for BAMS to include building manuals under its remit is by no means a bridge too far.
“The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) possess the ability to facilitate even greater transparency for consumers in relation to base building information through such a potential expansion of BAMS.”
2. Establish an Australian building manual standard
By establishing a manual, Mr Evans argued strata communities have a greater chance to prevent and respond to building defects by being able to know what materials were used during the construction process.
“With a lack of a national uniform standard for building manuals in Australia, costs to consumers to source required information missing at handover can be further exacerbated,” he said.
Mr Evans noted that the SCA and Engineers Australia have created a standard guideline that could be applicable across Australia. This has been submitted to the Australian Building and Construction Board’s Building Manual consultation earlier this year.
3. Expand the scope of warranties for trades
Lastly, Mr Evans argued the enforcement of warranties towards trades and sub-trades would ensure greater accountability across the building and construction sector to ultimately benefit owners and residents of strata.
“SCA (Vic) have argued for reform of the VBA’s enforcement processes and capabilities in its submission to the Victorian Building System Review, which began a staged consultation process in 2021; this process will ultimately culminate in a new Building Act for implementation in 2023,” Mr Evans explained.
“With amendments to the Owners Corporations Act set to become law from 1 December 2021, and with the Victorian Government’s review of the building sector being undertaken throughout the next two to three years, there is no time like the present to set the record straight and most importantly, ensure that consumers within owners corporations are given the tools they need to meet and beat the challenges posed by building defects.”