There is a need for urgent intervention by the State Government into the cladding crisis, writes Commercial Litigation Senior Associate, Charles Lethbridge.
Attwood Marshall Lawyers’ commercial litigation department acts for unit owners, bodies corporate, builders and developers in commercial and insurance litigation cases, including class actions.
Insurers are concerned about the cost of removing combustible cladding from buildings and potential law suits from unit owners/bodies corporate following the Grenfell tower disaster in 2017, which killed 72 people.
However it is our view that insurers have long been aware of the dangers of combustible cladding and now in keeping with their standard dishonest business models, they are stepping away to leave an industry in crisis.
Thousands of building approvals could be stalled along with payments to tradies and in turn costs could rise for property buyers. Surveyors and certifiers have warned the industry is at significant risk.
The Government has shifted the onus onto owners, with the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) writing to the owners of 1300 Gold Coast buildings in October 2018, asking for them to investigate the materials used in buildings or face fines of up to $20,000.
Bodies corporate and unit owners may be faced with massive building rectification bills which they have to pay themselves. They may also try to seek legal recourse against developers, builders, engineers and tradespeople involved in the construction of their buildings.
Some developers have been loud in their reproach of the State Government, however as an industry, developers have been using cheap cladding and other sub-par materials on the coast for many years.
We see time and time again developers using poor building products or materials and poor construction methods to minimise overheads and then down the track they seem surprised that those buildings contain serious fire hazards or significant leakage problems, for example.
We have acted for members of a class action against a prominent Gold Coast developer in relation to a building product it used in the construction of a multi-unit building and we are currently acting for a trades company which has been joined to the Cathedral Place class action in Brisbane.
We are also investigating a Robina unit block with serious leakage problems and damage.
The State Government should review certification processes – there needs to be an independent authority which ensures rigorous certification processes are undertaken during construction because clearly the current system is failing.
The cladding crisis is the tip of the iceberg in the building industry. Moving forward, there are going to be many cases involving dangerously constructed multi-unit buildings.
We expect it is only a matter of time before a Mascot-type evacuation hits the Gold Coast.