There are new laws that require body corporates to find out whether or not the cladding on their buildings is combustible. These laws gained worldwide traction after the disastrous Grenfell Tower Fire in the UK, which led to the loss of numerous lives and property. Closer to home, the Lacrosse fire incident in 2014 led to the awareness of the role that cladding plays in the event of a fire.
Although many states have tried to solve the cladding problem, progress is moving at a sluggish pace. In Victoria, a specific taskforce has been put into place to ensure compliance with the regulations on cladding compliance. In addition to this, there is a policy in place that seeks to ensure that the cost of replacing defective cladding is not too heavy on body corporates. This will be done by compensating money spent on rectification through rates. In Queensland, there is a Non- conforming Building Products Audit Taskforce in place. Its main mandate is to ensure that the rules on cladding are complied with.
How to Know If Your Cladding is Safe
There are three steps to determine whether your building is among those targeted by the compliance laws. You will need to get a compliance certificate if:
- The building belongs to Classes 2- 9, which covers virtually every kind of building other than houses.
- The building development issued after the first of January 1994 and before the first of October 2008.
- The building is classified as a Type A or Type B construction.
The Compliance Process
The first thing you need to do if your building falls in the above categories is to register online and fill in the relevant questionnaire. If your cladding is not complaint, you need to move to the second step. If it is, simply keep the certification given. You have until 29th March 2019 to complete this first step.
The second step involves seeking the opinion of a building expert regarding the condition of your cladding. This step is for those who are uncertain whether their cladding conforms to the new laws or not. You have until the 29th of May 2019 to submit a report by the professional building expert. Finally, you will also need to get a fire risk assessment report from a qualified and licensed fire engineer. It is by this report that you will know whether or not you need to carry out rectification of the cladding.
If the cladding is not complaint with the laws, then you are required to publish a notice and display it on the premises. You also need to give such notice to both tenants and lot owners, including the new tenants and lot owners. Notification brings with it a host of problems when it comes to body corporate services.
First, it is quite possible that your body corporate services manager will simply ignore this requirement. Although this is a responsibility for the committee, it often always is the body corporate manager that gets blamed for failure to give notice. Secondly, given the strict guidelines put in place, many managers have to race against time to get assessments done and reports filed. Finally, notifying tenants on its own might be difficult and undesirable, simply because it might turn many off.
In addition to the above challenges, there is also the question of who will bear the rectification cost if the assessment report says that rectification must be done. Additionally, lack of disclosure of non- compliance can lead to plenty of legal problems. All in all, the new laws will most likely result in plenty of litigation, and this will be truly problematic in the future.