A UNIT owner broke down on Monday after a parliamentary inquiry was told governments and the construction industry had left consumers to "sort out the mess" of a failed building regulatory system.
Mascot Towers unit owner Vijay Vital wept at the impact on his family of being evacuated from their home on June 2, the mounting costs and lack of answers about the future caused by structural defects in the 10-year-old building. Unit residents were paying the price for "someone who has taken profits and run away", he said.
Mr Vital was one of four unit owners to give evidence to the parliamentary inquiry into building regulation, established after high profile Sydney unit building failures.
But Charlestown's Landmark building unit owner Richard Devon told the inquiry the problems that led to the Mascot Towers evacuation, and the Opal Tower evacuation of 300 residents on Christmas Eve, were a long time in the making, and governments had failed to act for years to protect consumers.
Mr Devon told the inquiry he bought a unit at the Landmark when "a lot of these defects didn't come to light to most of the owners... but they were known".
He strongly criticised the role of strata committees in exacerbating problems for unit owners, after searching committee meeting minutes to find significant defects were known about in 2009, even as the Landmark won a NSW Master Builders excellence in construction award.
"They were known about, but it wasn't really passed on," Mr Devon told the inquiry.
He said he and another Landmark owner, Aidan Ellis, had "spent over $100,000 of our own money trying to keep the bastards honest", including taking a case against the strata committee to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
"The thing that really disturbed us is we went to NCAT, and when you get a ruling in NCAT, if the body corporate or strata committee wants to ignore it, they can," Mr Devon told the inquiry.
The Landmark's 59 unit owners, many elderly, were required to pay thousands of dollars in special levies to repair common areas and units on the building's ninth floor. Mr Devon told the inquiry original plans for the ninth floor were changed three times.
In a submission to the inquiry he said many unit owners had been left the victims of a "silent cover-up" of building problems by governments, regulators and the building industry.
The parliamentary inquiry, chaired by Greens MP David Shoebridge who visited the Landmark earlier this year,
The parliamentary inquiry, chaired by Greens MP David Shoebridge who visited the Landmark earlier this year, will consider the role of private certification in protecting building standards, including conflicts of interest, effectiveness of inspections and the accountability of private certifiers; the adequacy of consumer protections for owners and purchasers of new apartments/dwellings, and limitations on building insurance and compensation schemes and the role of strata committees in responding to building defects discovered in common property.
Further public hearings are set down for August 16 and 27.
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