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  • Samantha Reece

New Victorian Education kit arms buyers and owners

A damning Apartment Living Report reveals more than half of the Victorians surveyed are living in apartments with defects.

Australian Apartment Advocacy CEO Ms Sam Reece says the lack of clear access to information about buying an apartment has left many current apartment owners with inherited ‘defect debt’ and those looking to buy an apartment unsure what to look out for.

Ms Reece hopes the organisation’s new Victorian Apartment Buyer and Owner Education Kit will provide the states consumers with an easy A-to-Z buyer’s guide on what to look out for when buying or living in an apartment.

“16,000 apartments are expected to be delivered into the Victorian market in the next four years. Consumers now have an A-to-Z buyers guide on whether they are purchasing a dud or not,” said Ms Reece.

Figures reported in the advocacy organisation’s Apartment Living Report released earlier this year found that 54% of apartment owners had numerous defects and many of the defects on the list had not been fixed.

The wide-ranging national survey of 3600 apartment owners included 1044 respondents from Victoria.

The findings show there is urgent action needed to educate and protect Victorian apartment owners, new and old about what to look for when buying and living in an apartment.

“77% of Victorian respondents said they wish they’d had more education to help them during the apartment buying phase and pre-settlement process,” she said.

Ms Reece said part of the problem for consumers looking to buy an apartment is that many defects are difficult or impossible to detect, and the consequences of a defect can often take years to be evidenced. This can have an impact on professional indemnity insurance claims.

The report found 60% of apartment owners said they wanted an independent body to inspect their apartment complex each year and advise of building issues.

More significant, almost 80% indicated they wanted a building inspection prior to purchase to verify the quality of the build.

“For too long, governments have fostered a wild west building culture where too many new apartments are being built with defects.”

“Thousands of lives have been wrecked by lax building regulations, rogue developers and a lack of consumer information around apartment buying and living.”

Ms Reece says the Victorian Apartment Education Kit will advise owners in a number of ways, including:

· Identifying defects more easily: The kit helps apartment buyers identify and rectify building defects, so they can avoid the financial cost and emotional distress associated with being stuck with unsafe and unsellable properties.

· Building confidence: Becoming more informed will improve buyers’ confidence in challenging and questioning anything sub-standard, meaning they will know when to walk away from a bad property and avoid buying a problematic apartment.

· Outlines the life process of ownership: Rather than just a buyer’s guide, the kit provides important information for every stage of owning an apartment – buying, maintaining, strata, renting and dispute resolution.

· Comprehensive understanding of the purchasing process: It’s not just identifying problematic properties - the A-to-Z guide covers purchasing off the plan, sales contracts, pre-settlement checklist, insurance considerations, common apartment defects, strata fees and complaints, resolution and conciliation.

The Victorian kit is now available online to download. Last year the kit was successfully launched in WA with more than 5000 downloads and later this year, a QLD and NSW version will be released.

AAA collaborated with The Victorian Building Authority, Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) and Consumer Affairs Victoria and a working committee including accredited builders, surveyors, structural engineers, insurers and lawyers.

Ms Reece said unsafe apartment blocks in Victoria are contributing to a national trend of poor construction practices and regulation.

“Defects aren’t maintenance or repair issues; they are faults created during the build.”

“No one can imagine what it is like, unless you have lived the horror of the bad builder experience and the legacy they leave behind – I hope this kit will arm buyers with all the information they need to make a safe purchase.

Described as the Erin Brockovich of apartment living, Ms Reece is campaigning for change against developers behaving badly and hopes the state government will endorse the Apartment Buyer and Owner Education Kit and make it a compulsory part of the apartment buying process.

“Our research shows if a buyer has defects in an apartment, their chance of buying another apartment drops 30% and with only 14% of people saying they’d buy off the plan in the first place, consumer confidence is at crisis levels.”

“Unlike buying a home, when there is a defect in an apartment it can have huge financial ramifications for the entire block and it involves a number of parties including the certifier, developer, builder, strata manager, body corporate and the owners themselves to work proactively,” she says.

“These buyers must have confidence that their apartment will last the legacy and it will retain its value and be a safe home. The kit is the first step in helping Victorian buyers make the right choices”.

“You wouldn’t dare take a holiday without travel insurance so why would you risk buying an apartment without the education kit,” she said.

The education kit can be downloaded from AAA website::

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