New apartments are sprouting up over Melbourne: at present, they represent the fastest growing class of property ownership in Australia.
Market researcher BIS Shrapnel predicts that the country’s capital cities will see an estimated 162,650 new apartments go on the market over the next three years.
For those worried about Australia’s affordable homes crisis, this is welcome news indeed. But there may be a cloud behind the silver lining: an alarmingly high number of these new apartment blocks are laden with owner-reported defects. Some of them will be so expensive to correct that a cheaper solution would be to simply rebuild.
Lax enforcement of Melbourne’s construction standards, combined with the use of cheap building materials, are being blamed for the cracks and leaks, sinkholes, asymmetrical windows, and diluted paint. There have even been reports of glass falling out of high-rises and fumes from car parks seeping into dwellings.
These defects are not maintenance or repair problems. They are entirely attributable to substandard construction, materials or design. Some defects may exist at the construction phase, only to cause problems later on, after being by faults in the original design or construction.
The quality of building work appears to change according to supply and demand. Apartments are sold for a certain price off-plan, but by the time the construction phase arrives, the cost of supplies may have increased and tradespeople have become scarce. Consequently, developers are cutting corners to save money.
During the past financial year there have been nearly 3000 complaints made to Consumer Affairs Victoria over defective workmanship, which represents an increase of 13% over the previous year. According to Strata Community Australia, there are at least 58 defective apartment buildings in Melbourne with a cumulative value of approximately $49 million.
One prominent example is the Lacrosse apartment complex in Melbourne, whose owner-occupants were informed that they had to cover a $20 million bill to address the building’s illegal cladding, which is highly flammable. An apartment block in Lidcombe, Sydney suffered storm damage worth $2.6 million when its roof came off, but damage was in part due to faulty construction which didn't comply with the Building Code of Australia.