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Relieving the pain of rectifying building defects

Multi-owned buildings can be plagued with problems but who’s responsible for fixing them? Deakin’s new Strata Concepts series provides timely advice.

A new education series tackling the problem of multi-owned building defects has been launched by Deakin Business School (DBS) with forums held recently in Melbourne and Sydney.

Deakin University’s Strata Concepts series – developed by DBS researcher Dr Nicole Johnston and John Kite (Deakin Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment) – delivers advice, skills and tools for strata-environment professionals who need to navigate through the “building defects rectification process”.

Designed for owners’ corporation, body corporate, resident-building and facility managers and follows, the series follows Dr Johnston’s highly-acclaimed 2019 research which red-flags inadequate waterproofing, cladding and fire protection as among the top problems afflicting Australian apartment buildings.

A socio-legal researcher, Dr Johnston specialises in research around the structure of apartments, townhouses and units.

‘My interest is around how developers structure these types of properties and the problems that can arise, the extent to which purchasers understand what they are buying when acquiring this property type, governance practices, and building defects. It’s a fairly specialised field of research and there are not many academics who work in this area,’ she says.

Dr Johnston created the Strata Concept series after discovering there was a need to educate professionals on strata titling – or the legal structures relating to higher density living.

‘My research highlighted education gaps for professional stakeholder groups such as conveyancers and valuers and, initially, it was these ancillary professional groups that were to be targeted for this education series. However as a result of some findings from my recent research on building defects, I decided to turn attention to educating managers on how best to assist their clients in the defect rectification process,’ she explains.

Her study revealed that across Australia, strata properties (like apartments) are plagued with defects that leave owners with few choices:  they either pursue the developer and builder for repairs or, more commonly, are forced to  resolve the defects on their own as a result of the developer and builder going into liquidation.

‘This can be very costly, stressful and time consuming for those affected, the lot owners,’ she explains.

‘These types of property schemes have managers who assist in administering the property schemes (or owners’ corporation) and when a scheme is left with defects, managers play an important role as advocates for the collective ownership. However unfortunately, many managers do not have the skills to manage the rectification process successfully. It is a very legally complicated area and managers need to understand how they can assist their clients effectively. This education series provides them with the means to do this. Effective management of the building defects crisis is essential to mitigate the long term impacts of building defects.’

With a line-up of specialist speakers, the one-day forums covered the topics of understanding building defects, the impact on mould and bio-toxins in water damaged properties, pathways for rectification, and dealing with a building in crisis. 

A unique feature of the series also includes a Building Defects Rectification Toolkit that was designed to help strata professionals understand their role in the rectification process including responsibility and potential liability.

‘It was essential that we create a toolkit for managers to use to assist in the rectification process. It includes draft letters, committee motions and Q&As. This received excellent feedback at the forums as it’s something useable and can be implemented into their work immediately,’ says Dr Johnston.

In February 2020, DBS will host the annual International Research Forum on Multi-owned Properties conference in Melbourne which is organised by Dr Johnston and attracts leading academics from around the world.

‘DBS is well placed to advance professional education and research in this area,’ she says. 

‘The marketplace lacks good quality education, supported by qualified educators, and DBS can add value in this space, particularly in relation to strata knowledge.’

Find out more about studying property and real estate at Deakin or register here  for International Research Forum on Multi-owned Properties conference


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