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Victorian Building Commission has 'failed': Lawyer

Posted by: Ellen Feely | 13 December, 2012 - 11:50 AM
VCAT

Over 100 home-owners frustrated by issues arising from their newly-built homes are turning to litigation in the hope of seeking compensation, with lawyers calling the Victorian Building Commission a 'failure' in dealing with disputes.

Speaking with Neil Mitchell, Shelley Softley said the builders she had engaged to construct her $220,000 new home in 2009 had made her feel she was responsible for the range of issues she and her husband had experienced with their Melton property.

"Basically, they've pretty much from day one blamed us in regards to not having certain things around the perimeter of the house, concrete or whatever to stop the house from moving," she said.

"They've actually put the blame on us each time and made it out that they were only patching up the issues as a goodwill gesture for us."

Ms Softley said her dealing with the Building Commission failed to rectify the issue between her and her builder.

"Every time that we've spoken to them, I just got off the phone feeling more frustrated than what I was before I even started," she said.

"It just absolutely feels like there's nowhere that us hard-working citizens can turn to when you invest all your money in your biggest asset and it goes wrong."

Ms Softley said she didn’t feel safe living in her house, and the noises of parts of the house cracking caused her fear.

"From about two months after moving in, we had cracks appearing and we had ceilings separating from their cornices,” she said.

"One ceiling completely separated from the cornice and just left a big gap in the roof.

"One wall had to actually (have) the plaster taken off and the wall had to be practically hammered back into place.

"Whether it be late at night when everything is switched off and it sounds even louder so it's scarier or even just during the day, you're just constantly hearing something going on."

Robert Auricchio, commercial litigation lawyer at Slater & Gordon, told Neil Mitchell Ms Softley’s case was one of 100 homes the firm was dealing with that had problems arise from the ‘waffle slab mechanism’.

"Many of these homes have experienced slab heave which is the outer-edges of the homes start lifting, lifting the roof trusses, leading to cracking the walls, bowing the ceilings," he said.

"Most of it is related to the ineffective control of moisture in the soil, particularly at the design and construction stage.”

Mr Auricchio said the hadn't seen any action from the Building Commission with regard to any of their waffle slab disputes.

The Ombudsman delivered a scathing report on the building industry watchdog, the Victorian Building Commission, in parliament on Wednesday, highlighting ‘questionable’ expenditure habits including $1.5 million on entertainment, hospitality and sponsoring industry bodies’ events and award.

"I'm glad to see that the Ombudsman's report pretty much vindicates what we've been saying, that the...commission did fail as an effective watchdog,” Mr Auricchio said.

Mr Auricchio said his firm was many dealing with building issues concerning houses in Melbourne’s north-west, including Wydnham, Werribee and Melton, but also in the south-eastern suburbs.

Mr Aurricchio said the only option left for the Softley was to commence proceedings in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), which could rule for the builder to pay compensation, order the property to be fixed, award damages or demand the house be demolished if it was beyond servicing.

LISTEN: Shelley Softley and Robert Aurricchio speak with Neil Mitchell:

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Blog comments Your Say

  • The Builkding Cmmission also failed me. I fitted all deatils for overlooking , and legally complied.. A 2 storey building now overlooks everything we do in opur back yard at Cape Woolamai.. The building surveyor was warned only , and no other action.. I can go to VCAT. The building does not comply to their original drawings.

    Elwynne Kift. Wednesday 6 March, 2013 - 12:14 PM
  • There is no insurance....it is a blatant lie, misleading and deceptive...ask how many claims have been successful.

    Paddy Sunday 16 December, 2012 - 10:34 PM

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