Private Certification Reforms Can’t Come Soon Enough Says Hills GM

The Hills Shire Council’s General Manager Dave Walker has praised the NSW Government’s announcement of a crackdown on private certifiers, but has called for better safeguards for apartment owners against dodgy construction practices and certification.

Mr Walker has called on the NSW Minister for Better Regulation Mr Victor Dominello to force developers to secure a bond for any remedial work that needs to be completed on a building complex as a result of poor building standards. Mr Walker said the bond should be held for two years after the warranty period expires.

Mr Walker said that while Mr Dominello’s announcement of a crackdown and possible certification reforms were welcome, it was too little too late for the owners of apartments in four buildings that were all approved by the same certifier, despite not meeting fire safety standards.

Three of the apartment buildings are located in Castle Hill and one is located in Carlingford.

“Many Hills residents are downsizing to apartments and they should be able to do so knowing that they’re living in a safe building,” Mr Walker said.

“But now the owners of apartments in these buildings listed will have to fork out thousands of dollars to get their building up to the minimum fire safety standards required.”

“There was recently a fire in one of the buildings and it was soon discovered that the buildings were not built to the correct standards.”

The cost to fix some of these buildings will run higher than $200,000.

Mr Walker said that while he was encouraged by the announcement of the crackdown and potential industry reform by Mr Dominello, he believed that the Building Professionals Board needed to use their powers to financially penalise certifiers more severely and strip them of their licence for extended periods.

“Any certifier that approves a building without the minimum fire safety standards is either incompetent, corrupt or both. They are potentially saving the developer hundreds of thousands of dollars at the expense of people’s lives.”

“It appears that these certifiers are motivated by ongoing contracts, so the BPB should be given the power to slug them severely with punitive financial penalties.”

“Some of the penalties I’ve seen being dished out to private certifiers are around the $5000 – $15,000 mark, which is cheap change when we’re talking about developments worth tens of millions of dollars.”

“This Council’s longstanding position is one of opposition to private certification. Due to the commercial nature of the industry, it is inevitable that a number of certifiers will build a rapport with regular clients and conflicts of interest will arise.”

“While the Minister’s reforms are welcome, it is time that the BPB staff stopped being scared, faceless bureaucrats and took action. Based on the way the BPB is currently performing, it wouldn’t be missed if it stopped operating.”