Why So Many Strata Buildings Are Structurally Unsound

Properties with strata titles originated in Australia in 1961, and today, 1.2 million New South Wales (NSW) residents live in such places. Unfortunately, 85 percent of those NSW homes have major flaws.

That statistic comes from an extensive survey that was conducted by the University of New South Wales (UNSW), one that took two years to complete. This study, which the government subsidised, also found deficiencies in 75 percent of strata buildings in Sydney that were constructed between 2005 and 2009.

The people who conducted this study questioned members of peak associations as well as apartment managers and strata owners; in all, 1,550 people were queried. About 70 percent of owners admitted to having at least one major shortcoming within their developments. Cracks and water leaks represented the most frequently reported flaws.

One finding is especially surprising: The newest properties seem to be the most deficient. In fact, approximately 85 percent of those who own apartment buildings that were constructed since 2000 say that they’ve noticed serious imperfections.

Another startling discovery is that it typically takes a long time to remedy strata building flaws. In many instances, a builder will tell the managers about a certain defect, and those managers will be unresponsive or will react slowly.

When this study was released in 2012, it stunned many locals. Stephen Goddard, the head of the Owners Corporation Network Australia, said in response that NSW is not safe to live in if building codes are so often ignored.

The intense preparations for 2000’s Summer Olympic Games in Sydney undermined the oversight of construction projects. In many cases, the government granted private citizens the authority to certify the safety of new buildings.

That way, those structures could be finished sooner. Dr. Hazel Easthope, the primary author of the UNSW study, explains that some buildings were approved even though they’d never undergone formal inspections. This period of lax standards lasted from 1998 to 2004; the laws were toughened in 2005.

The restrictions that are now on the books might be sufficient, but Goddard notes that the people who violate those laws are still inadequately penalised all too often. Keep in mind, though, that the position of strata manager is notoriously complicated.

Those managers must handle many different tasks each day, including intervening in neighbours’ conflicts, deciding who should pay for various repairs, and solving parking arguments.