Building defects

'Chandlerites': Three ways of responding to the Building Commissioner's reforms

October 27, 2022

The followers of NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler OAM, dubbed Chandlerites, are starting to show their colours. Presently there are at least three groups: the hurt, the hopefuls, and the haters.

In the spirit of his reforms, I start with full disclosure. I’m a hopeful.

The hopefuls have been around for a while. We’ve done some things and seen some things. We are curious and optimists at heart, but life has knocked the stuffing out of us once (or twice) and we won’t be taken down again. We believe there is always a better way of doing things and we’re prepared to take calculated risks, end relationships if we must, and take down the establishment if necessary to achieve our ends. Hopefuls can be miscategorised as sycophants. Hopefuls sympathise with the hurt and hate the haters.

As saccharine as the flattery of the hurt can be, hopefuls, like myself, understand these people probably come from a dark place where much damage has been done. Those of this characterisation are probably tired from a long campaign to right historical wrongs, and are ecstatic that there is someone who they feel they can trust. After all, Chandler has the demonstrable energy, abilities, and power to deliver on his promises. The hurt will be dreadfully let down if the reforms fail, but this group have nothing to lose. Fulsome support is all they have left to give.

The haters are a broad church but relatively easy to pick. They might be lawyers facing the risk of losing a lucrative practice area. They might be developers and suppliers who love a fast buck. They might be civil libertarians distrustful of demagogues. You will recognise them by their cheap shots and snippy comments – ‘We’ve seen it all before’, ‘Window dressing’, ‘One man’s ego run amuck’, ‘Unsustainable’, and the list goes on. You might also pick them by their disengagement. They make boring points and are intellectually lazy.

It’s been another busy week for #NSWConstruct, with more major reform announcements, Project Intervene and Latent Defect Insurance. And in this week, two things from the haters struck me as particularly egregious.

First, the criticism that the Project Intervene reform package is regressive – that it is simply taking us back to the old days of the site ‘foreman’(sic) and tight financier control of drawdowns. I’m sure there is more to it than that, but so what if it does? Only fools and dead people don’t change their minds.

Secondly, that these reforms will just add additional costs to the consumers without benefits. This misses the mark widely. What seems tome to be happening here is a planned rollout of several tools each serving its own unique purpose, but interconnected in a way that provides a clear choice for strata apartment investors. A choice they have not had before. A choice for quality at a fair price and the peace of mind of additional bonds, insurance, enforceable undertakings, and guarantees that have not been available. These choices will be signposted and visible in a way we have not seen before. These choices will come at a cost, of course new products and services always do. But they will deliver value – and they must, or people won’t buy them.

The reforms will rise or fall not on the shoulders of one man or his successors, but from their work to carefully and thoughtfully provide a value proposition for strata apartment owners. Based on new and reliable information not previously available, when you buy a new strata apartment in NSW you will be asked to make some choices. You will choose -  

·     an independently rated developer and suppliers, or not,

·     an apartment block backed by secured defect cover, or not,

·     a well-formed and engaged group of independent owners possessing of accurate and detailed information about what their building is made of, or not

·     un-conflicted strata management goods and services, or not, and

·     a well-run, resourced, and compliant owners corporation, or not.

If I’m right, the hurt will be healed, the hopefuls will be happy, and the haters?  They will still hate. Two out of three ‘aint bad.

(With thanks to T. Swift and Meatloaf)

Image source: The Australian

Michael Teys

Strata expert

Michael is a strata expert with over 30 years experience in strata law and management. He is a strata researcher with City Futures Research Centre UNSW, a consultant to strata industry suppliers, and conducts executive education for strata managers and property processionals.