Industry stakeholders including NSW chapter president of the Australian Institute of Architects, Shaun Carter are concerned about quality standards and regulations being given the short shrift by unscrupulous developers in Sydney’s investor-driven construction market. With high demand for new apartments, developers are not only cutting corners in construction quality but also getting away with it, according to special counsel Suzie Broome of Sachs Gerace Broome.

Broome says many buildings aren’t fire compliant since they don’t have fire dampers installed in the ceilings or fire stops fitted between walls to stop the spread of fire in an emergency. Since buyers are eager to invest in the hot property market, they spend less time assessing the contract and apartment construction than they do buying a car, enabling developers and builders to escape scrutiny.

Additionally, politicians are reluctant to regulate the industry for fear of slowing down the construction boom, which is propping up the economy. 

Engineer and project manager Robert Hart of Engineers Australia also expressed concern over the construction standard in some of the apartments in the market. Observing that top-tier developers and builders such as Mirvac, Brookfield Multiplex, Frasers and Built respected the rules, he said there were unscrupulous developers who didn’t care about rules or understand standards. Many of these developers often disappeared after the sale to avoid being answerable for the defects.

Hart believes bad developers flourish in the market due to a lack of government regulation, attributing the situation to the failure of the NSW government to implement the 150 recommendations of the Lambert Report on the Building Professionals Act.

Speaking on behalf of developers, Stephen Albin, CEO of the Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW, says there are some great mid-level developers such as HELM, Hyecorp and Cornerstone, with problem developers being in a small minority. However, he warned buyers to ensure they bought only from reputable developers.

Gus Kernot, director of independent property inspection company, O’Connor’s Property Reports explains that the main problem with buildings developed primarily for investors is that quality issues such as leaking roofs, faulty membranes in showers and fire compliance problems are less likely to be reported by tenants or investigated by the owners. These problems become more visible when the next generation of owners does renovations or starts repairs and discovers the true state of the construction.

Shaun Carter suggests that the main architect of a building should be retained past the DA stage so they can inspect the building onsite and sign off on it afterwards. He adds that the public also needs to be educated and better informed on building quality.