Mascot Towers owner breaks down: ‘When can we go home?’

A TEARFUL owner of a unit at Mascot Towers brought the human face of suffering due to the building defects crisis to parliament today.

Homeowner Vijay Vital broke down as he detailed the impact of the forced evacuation in June from the blighted building and the effect on his family of living in serviced accommodation.

Giving evidence to the Inquiry into Regulation Of Building Standards, Building Quality and Building Disputes, Mr Vital said he had owned the apartment for 10 years - and many defects had to be fixed over that period.

An emotional Vijay Vital, who owns a unit in Mascot Towers, wipes away tears after delivering his opening statement to the inquiry. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins
An emotional Vijay Vital, who owns a unit in Mascot Towers, wipes away tears after delivering his opening statement to the inquiry. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins

But the sudden forced evacuation in June of the building - when residents were given two hours to pack up and leave - has been traumatic, especially as residents still do not know what the reason was for the order.

"I stand here as a parent as well … my daughter asked me: 'When can we go home?'," he said before he broke down in tears.

"I shouldn't be accountable for it," he eventually continued, before breaking down again.

Alton Chen, another resident at Mascot Towers, told the inquiry owners could be liable for "ten of millions of dollars" of remediation work at the building.

He said people were all forced to evacuate at short notice and many people were only notified by email - and still don't know the root cause. Because of this uncertainty, owners could not claim on their insurance.

Residents were forced to leave the Mascot Towers building in June due to structural damage. Picture: Monique Harmer
Residents were forced to leave the Mascot Towers building in June due to structural damage. Picture: Monique Harmer

He said those living at Mascot Towers had been given assistance by the state government, but were still paying mortgages, strata fees and rates on properties they could not inhabit.

He added that while governments had continually lowered standards to encourage builders and developers to build, this made the government responsible for finding a financial solution to the issue.

Earlier in the day, chair David Shoebridge expressed his disappointment Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson had refused to attend the inquiry.

The new Buildings Commissioner, who takes up his role on Wednesday, will appear at the inquiry on Friday.

 

Earlier in proceedings State Insurance Regulatory Authority chief executive, Carmel Donnolly, said claims were rising, while there were fewer policies in force. She said 95 per cent of claims arose out of builders who had become insolvent, with the top three defects being masonry and brick work, external rendering and waterproofing.

Owners Corporation Network director, Jane Hearn, suggested that some of that stamp duty should be returned to allow them to pay for the defects.

Visible cracks in the parking lot at Mascot Towers. Picture: Monique Harmer
Visible cracks in the parking lot at Mascot Towers. Picture: Monique Harmer

She said: "We have allowed two dollar companies and phoenixing to become institutionalised.

The carpark at Mascot Towers. Picture: Monique Harmer
The carpark at Mascot Towers. Picture: Monique Harmer

"Self regulation has been pursued in the name of the affordable housing with factoring in the defects."

Karen Stiles, executive officer of the Owners Corporation Network said the "Federal Government has a part to pay in all this. They were warned in 2015 that there were substandard products coming into the country".

The building inquiry will also look into the Opal Tower debacle at Sydney Olympic Park. Picture: AAP/Angelo Velardo
The building inquiry will also look into the Opal Tower debacle at Sydney Olympic Park. Picture: AAP/Angelo Velardo

Ms Hearn said the government's advice that suggested general consumer law was of use to owners' corporations was "simply inaccurate".

"Essentially an Owners Corporation is not a customer of a developer. The individual lot owner might be a consumer but you would have to draw all the lots owners together and it doesn't cover common property," she said.



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