Guess who pays when new cladding task force finds blocks at risk
Flat Chat
by Jimmy Thomson
01 August 2017

There we were, sitting down to compose our submissions on holiday letting (again!), when the State government announced its proposals for dealing with inflammable cladding on high-rise blocks.

The same kind of cladding that caused the Grenfell and Lacrosse fires is all over the place, apparently (like some government policies).

So Fair Trading is going to send out a form asking buildings that they suspect might be affected asking us to declare whether we have cladding or not.

If we say yes, the new flammable cladding task force (or maybe just the firies) will come round and tell us if it’s dangerous or not.

If it is risky, it must be removed and replaced.

Fantastic!  But the announcement skipped one significant item; who’s going to pay for all this removal and replacement?

And the answer is, of course, us.  We, the idiots who were stupid enough to believe that our builders and developers would never put our lives at risk just to save $5 per square metre of cladding, will be legally obliged to pay (again) to make our buildings safe.

If our apartment blocks were cars with dodgy airbags, they would be recalled and repaired at the car company’s expense. Likewise, if it was a washing machine that had a tendency to burst into flames.

Your electric kettle can’t boil water? Take it back to the shop. Your new computer stops computing?  “We’re couriering a new laptop round to you right now, sir.”

A few weeks ago, our four-year-old Samsung TV developed stripey line disease, three months after the extended warranty ran out.  I assumed I was stuffed, but I was wrong. Samsung offered me my money back or the new version of the same screen.  But why?

“Fair Trading says there is a reasonable expectation that electrical goods will last five years, regardless of their warranty,” said the nice lady on the phone.

Fair Trading?  Our Fair Trading? Helping consumers?

Hey, I think most people who buy a new apartment have a reasonable expectation that it won’t turn into a Roman candle the first time someone drops a lit cigarette. Does that count for anything? It’s only one of the most expensive things you will buy in your life.

If I was on the committee of a building that had suspect cladding, I would be handing in my “You don’t have to be mad to volunteer here … but you do” mug  before I became personally liable for not looking too closely at the tin sheets on the side of the building.

More likely, many strata owners will find creative ways of not declaring that they have bought into a potential firetrap and hope for the best.

Or, if it’s anything like the strata swimming pool fencing fiasco – where the government put the compliance date back a year, every year, three years in a row before giving up and declaring strata pools exempt – the inspectors will never turn up.

OK, don’t panic. There are some creative ways of getting around the fire dangers of your inflammable cladding.

Or maybe Innovation and Better Regulation minister Matt Kean could just declare inflammable cladding a major defect, and then owners in buildings less than six years old could pursue the builders and developers to have it fixed.

Come on, Keano! It’s Fair, it’s Better and it’s Innovative – that’s all three boxes in your portfolio ticked with one stroke of your pen.

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