‘Human effluent’ flooded unit: Owners reveal horror stories

THE shocking extent of NSW apartment building defects has been laid bare with some owners revealing they have come home to find "human effluent" flooding their unit while others are using newspaper to stuff cracks in new developments.

The horror stories were detailed in submissions to a NSW parliamentary inquiry into the regulation of building standards with four Sydney apartment buildings sitting empty due to construction issues.

Residents leaving the evacuated Mascot Towers due to structural damage after being allowed in for a few hours today to collect some of their belongings. Picture: Jane Dempster/The Australian.
Residents leaving the evacuated Mascot Towers due to structural damage after being allowed in for a few hours today to collect some of their belongings. Picture: Jane Dempster/The Australian.

A planning and environment lawyer, whose name was suppressed, said they "heard one tradesman describe tenants living in a new development less than a year old, where they had stuffed a crack in walls with newspaper".

They wrote that building warranty insurance should "at the minimum … reflect the length of time it would take for structural defects to become apparent, which may be as long as six-ten years".

Major building defects are only covered under warranty for six years in NSW.

A resident who purchased an apartment with their partner in 2009 said the developer had liquidated the company after numerous defects appeared, leaving owners to front $1.1 million for repairs.

In one instance, they said plumbing issues reported to the strata manager multiple times were not addressed until disaster struck.

Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park was evacuated on Christmas Eve after cracks appeared. Picture: AAP
Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park was evacuated on Christmas Eve after cracks appeared. Picture: AAP

 

A tower block in Mascot was evacuated. Picture: Damian Shaw
A tower block in Mascot was evacuated. Picture: Damian Shaw

"My partner returned home one day to find human effluent flowing under the front door and down the stairs to the carpark," the owner wrote.

"The sewer was completely blocked, causing sewage to come up through the floor sumps and shower drain, and flowed through the entire apartment.

"It turned out to be the result of yet more shoddy building work."

They asked not to be named over concerns about damaging property value.

Another owner said their building needs over $7 million in rectification work "due to faulty construction", meaning they will pay about $70,000.

They also said $1 million had already been spent on legal fees pursuing the developer.

"Many people in our building have had to sell their apartments due to the stress of this process," the owner wrote.

"Meanwhile, the developer escaped responsibility by putting his company into administration and the period in which to make an insurance claim expired because it was too short a time for the full extent of defects to be known."

A resident who has visited apartments on the Central Coast for 15 years as part of their work and said they had discovered 15 buildings with major defects over that time.

This included "poor or non-existent water proofing", "failing expansion joints through the whole of an 8 storey building" and "unsafe balconies that had to be propped up".

Mascot Towers owners will be forced to pay at least $1 million to fix the damage. Picture: Britta Campion / The Australian
Mascot Towers owners will be forced to pay at least $1 million to fix the damage. Picture: Britta Campion / The Australian

Another owner who discovered numerous defects including water penetration and fire safety issues in their Surry Hills unit vowed never to buy a new apartment again.

"I remember the consultant architect we engaged saying: 'I know this builder, it would never had done a job like this if it was a government building or a commercial client as it would not get any more work'," the owner wrote.

The Sugarcube apartments and Honeycomb terraces in Erskineville remain empty after being completed 12 months ago because there are concerns over whether the developer properly cleaned up toxic land on the site.

NSW Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson says a building commissioner to regulate the industry will be appointed by the end of the month. Picture: AAP
NSW Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson says a building commissioner to regulate the industry will be appointed by the end of the month. Picture: AAP

Residents from 30 units at 19 Gadigal Ave in Zetland were forced to abandon their homes late last year following "severe" water damage and fire safety defects in the 10-year-old building.

Around the same time, about 300 residents were evacuated from Opal Tower on Christmas Eve after they noticed cracking noises.

Residents also fled Mascot Towers over cracking last month with owners having to stump up at least $1 million for the repair bill.

The state government is weighing up a number of building reforms in its Building Stronger Foundations discussion paper, which is available for public consultation until the end of July.

It has also agreed to appoint a building commissioner by the end of the month.

Applications for the position close tomorrow.



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