Decrease in apartment defects boost buyer confidence after building reforms

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
5 Min Read

The year is off to a great start for NSW residents hoping to purchase a new apartment, with homebuyers’ faith in construction quality showing signs of being restored.

A new report by the NSW Building Commission shows buyers’ confidence in apartment-style housing has increased thanks to a declining number of defects since the Construct NSW building reforms came into effect in 2019.

The law changes were introduced to provide the industry the regulatory transformation needed to restore trust in residential apartment buildings after decades of defects had eroded consumer confidence.

The reforms have had a far-reaching impact on NSW’s building and construction industry, particularly regarding insurance, accreditation requirements, and the liability of participants in building projects.

The changes have already impacted new building projects, with defects found in new apartments trending downwards since the new legislation’s introduction.

Noted reduction in common defects

The research by NSW Strata Hub surveyed 642 body corporates who reported an 18 per cent decrease in waterproofing and fire safety system defects in both new and old apartment buildings.

They also said most major building issues were fixed by the developer or construction company within six months without the need for legal avenues to be explored.

The improvements have resulted in half of strata managers believing the new laws had increased consumer confidence.

NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler OAM agreed, stating the survey results were proof the building reforms were beginning to pay off.

“While this survey delivers an important reminder of the legacy issues that reside in apartment buildings completed before the Construct NSW reform strategy commenced in 2019, it demonstrates that these reforms have shifted the dial in the right direction for newer buildings,” he said.

“This survey presents some promising findings. It demonstrates a steady decline in the reported defects since 2020, and strata communities and future apartment purchasers should be increasingly confident that NSW is the most attractive state in which to purchase a new apartment.”

Mr Chandler explained the legislation had successfully made construction companies more accountable for mistakes made during the building process.

“Developers and builders associated with the construction of apartment buildings with serious defects have increasingly been held accountable to fix them since the commencement of the NSW Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Act 2020 (RAB Act) launch and the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020 (DBP Act) launch,” he explained.

“The incidence of waterproofing defects is declining, supported by what building inspectors are seeing in the field. The reported incidence of non-compliant fire safety and key building services installations has increased, possibly due to increased awareness of these building elements.”

2021 data led to common property defect crackdown:

It is the second time the research has been conducted, with body corporate managers also surveyed in 2021.

The 2021 report led to Project Intervene, a program to resolve serious defects in the common property of residential apartment buildings up to ten years old through a structured process.

As part of that initiative, the NSW government has been negotiating with developers on behalf of body corporates to have significant defects fixed, with an independent person brought in to check the work is up to scratch and completed within a reasonable timeframe.

The program has proved popular among NSW strata communities, with the number of common area defects reported doubling since 2021.

However, the President of the Strata Care Association (NSW), Stephen Brell, says the additional defect reports directly result from Project Intervene as body corporates look to get already outstanding issues fixed.

“The data and findings of 2023 point to a backlog of legacy defects. Project Intervene, an outcome of the 2021 survey, is making inroads into these buildings with over 150 buildings registered for the program,” he said.

“Addressing building defects remains a formidable task. However, I feel that the establishment of Building Commission NSW demonstrates how serious the government is in restoring confidence in NSW apartment buildings.”

The full report can be found on the NSW strata communities web page.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.