Addressing building failure: strategies for residential strata owners 

May 13, 2024

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By Edwina Feilen, Manager, Business solutions, Australia

When it comes to addressing building failures in residential strata properties, the challenges are multifaceted and demand a comprehensive approach. Whether it is grappling with defects in new construction or managing ongoing maintenance issues as buildings age, owners and their corporations are often thrust into complex decision making. Not to mention navigating a landscape fraught with legal, financial, and technical complexities.

Evaluating ongoing concerns 

At the heart of building failures lies the structure of strata and community title schemes, which often place the burden of decision making on volunteer owners who may lack expertise in construction, engineering or architecture. These individuals find themselves tasked with overseeing the maintenance and rectification of complex buildings, often without adequate support or guidance. The sheer complexity of buildings, especially in larger strata developments, further compounds the challenge, with numerous construction systems and components requiring meticulous attention.

Newly constructed buildings are not immune to defects, with numerous instances of poor workmanship and construction practices that lead to issues manifesting once occupants move in. While the responsibility for rectifying defects typically falls on the builder, the resolution process can be fraught with difficulties, leaving owners to grapple with complex decisions and potential litigation.

As buildings age, the responsibility for maintenance falls on the collective ownership, often in the form of owners’ corporations or body corporate. However, inadequate funding and a lack of proactive maintenance measures can lead to deferred repairs and escalating costs over time. This pattern of neglect can exacerbate existing issues and pose safety risks to occupants. Failing to address these issues also generates difficulties when it comes to placing insurance and/or non- compliance with regulation/legislation that requires owners to maintain their built assets.

Enabling proactive building management 

Merely expecting owners to take a proactive stance on defect repairs and maintenance may not suffice, given the complexities involved. Instead, mechanisms should be put in place to facilitate proactive maintenance, such as additional funding for these items as part of the sinking funds structure to be leveraged as needed for periodic inspections and repairs conducted by qualified professionals.

Technology also plays a crucial role in enabling proactive building management, providing owners with data-driven insights and facilitating informed decision making. Tools like building inspection software and predictive maintenance systems empower owners to identify issues early and implement timely interventions, mitigating the risk of costly repairs down the line.

Identifying key defects

When it comes to building defects, certain issues demand heightened attention, with fire safety emerging as a critical concern. Passive and active fire protection systems must be rigorously inspected and maintained to ensure occupant safety and regulatory compliance. Identifying and addressing fire safety defects requires a holistic approach, encompassing structural elements, service penetrations, sprinkler systems, and fire-rated enclosures. It is important to note passive fire risks aren’t always visually obvious, and therefore should be carried out by an expert to ensure the adequate fire protection of a building. Building fire safety extends way beyond fire doors, exit signs and smoke detectors. 

Leaning on an expert team

To navigate the complexities of remedial repairs effectively, owners must seek expert guidance from qualified professionals, including engineers, building inspectors, and fire safety experts. Taking a siloed approach to repairs can lead to suboptimal outcomes and wasted resources, highlighting the importance of holistic defect assessment and remediation strategies.

Failure to address building defects and maintenance issues can have far-reaching consequences, jeopardising occupant safety, diminishing property values, and exposing owners to legal liabilities. Increased government intervention may become necessary to enforce compliance with maintenance obligations and ensure the long-term viability of strata properties.

To address these challenges proactively, owners must prioritise education, collaboration and adherence to best practices in building management. This includes investing in ongoing training for strata committee members, fostering collaboration between owners and industry professionals, and adopting a proactive approach to maintenance planning and budgeting.

Navigating building failure in residential strata properties demands a coordinated effort, with stakeholders working together to address defects, prioritise safety and ensure the long-term sustainability of buildings. In navigating these complexities, Sedgwick’s strata solutions are a valuable ally for owners and owners’ corporations/body corporate. 

With expertise in building inspections, defect identification, and proactive maintenance planning, we offer tailored solutions to address issues before they escalate. By partnering with Sedgwick, owners can benefit from comprehensive assessments, data-driven insights, and expert guidance, empowering them to make informed decisions that safeguard both property value and occupant safety. With our support, owners can navigate building failures with confidence, laying the foundation for resilient, thriving communities for years to come.

Learn more > click here to explore building concerns, recent stats and services for the strata community. 

Tags: aus, Australia, builders, building, Property, Property claims, Property management, property owner, residential, Restoring property, strata insurance