Building defects decision cries for law review

The timing of a major legislation review in 2014/15 is appropriate considering that national licensing was scrapped in December last year.

From time to time various jurisdictions in Australia make decisions that impact dramatically on strata living. Not always in a favourable way. Just recently a NSW High Court appeal found that builders don’t have a duty of care in the construction of a building to the extent to avoid the body corporate suffering loss resulting from latent defects in the common property. This means there is no common law recourse (and only limited statutory rights) against builders who have failed to adequately construct buildings at their schemes.

We have recommended to members that bodies corporate should ensure that they make a complaint to the Queensland Building and Construction Commission about defects, within time. Bodies corporate should obtain a comprehensive building report, identifying all defects, by a licensed contractor prior to the expiration of the time limits and they should notify the QBCC, and the building contractor responsible for the development, of all defects identified in the building report (or brought to the attention of the body corporate in any other way), prior to the expiration of the time limits.

By taking these steps the QBCC may issue a direction to rectify to the building contractor and, if that is not complied with, the body corporate may have rights under the statutory insurance scheme administered by the QBCC.

Cases like these call for more clarity in the legislation so that strata title owners are not left with huge expenses and lengthy rectification times around their schemes. As the peak industry body our focus continues to be on changing the sector to provide the best possible service to strata title owners. Our relationships with the government reflect that commitment and we were very honoured when the attorney-general, Jarrod Bleijie, officially opened our new office space on 14 October. Amongst our guests were the acting commissioner Ingrid Rosemann and professor William Duncan, a member of the QUT Property Law Review Panel, a life member of SCA (Qld) and our first president in 1984.

The attorney-general took the opportunity to brief SCA members on the legislative achievements in the past year and how these have cut 20 per cent of property related legislation. The attorney-general confirmed that after the first stage that explored legislation around current seller disclosure regimes and lot entitlements, the second stage at the end of the year will examine the Property Law Act 1974 and body corporate governance in community titles schemes.

At SCA (Qld) we are prepared to continue the work on the property law review in 2015. The strata title industry has been called a recession proof industry which is even more evident in the forecast of 43.3 per cent of all new housing to be in strata titled schemes. The move into a larger office will enable us to provide for that growth in membership.

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