The state government is currently consulting over a clutch of proposed reforms as part of the “Building Stronger Foundations” package, which would include a new registration scheme for building designers and the appointment of a Building Commissioner to regulate the industry.
The controversy surrounding the latest building evacuation also raises public disclosure questions in regards to serious defects.
In response to questions, a City of Sydney spokesman said the council became aware of the evacuation in late 2018 and confirmed it remains empty.
“A City of Sydney officer inspected the building in February, 2019, and found the building to be vacant with extensive and severe water damage,” the spokesman said.
“The water damage caused the failure of the internal fire-rated construction throughout several apartments.
“The fire-rated construction is required to separate individual apartments and common areas during a fire.”
When the Herald visited the site on Tuesday, the apartments were in a dilapidated state.
Behind locked glass doors, an emergency exit sign could be seen dangling from ceiling, electrical wiring was exposed, walls and ceilings were damaged and a walkway was missing several planks.
Timber boards and piles of unopened mail were strewn in the foyers.
Owners Corporation Network chair Stephen Goddard said there has been a “conspiracy of silence” around building defects for years due to confidential legal settlements and owners’ fears of damage to property values.
The Zetland apartments, known as the Garland Lofts, were built 10 years ago as part of a multi-stage development in the precinct.
The developer was a company called Garland 204 Pty Ltd, two directors of which were Phillip Bartlett and Janet Pennington.
Mr Bartlett was approached for comment.
It’s understood there has been ongoing litigation between multiple parties over defects in the building and the Herald does not seek to attribute responsibility to any particular party.
The homes were marketed as New York style loft apartments, featuring large glass windows and combining “designer flair with industrial chic.”
“There’s also a small shopping centre going in over the road so once you’re here,
you won’t need to go anywhere else,” promotional material said.
Zetland resident Carolyn Hammond was at a cafe across the road on the day the Gadigal building was evacuated. She said some of the owners were in tears at the news they would be forced to leave their homes.
“Bang, bang, bang, everyone moved out,” she said, adding she was concerned about quality of building standards in the area generally.
“They’re creating the ghettos of the future if they’re not careful.”
The City of Sydney spokesperson said its staff had liaised with the building’s owners, who had engaged consultants to address the defects and make the apartments habitable again.
“Following our inspection, an order was issued to ensure the building was kept in a safe condition while vacant,” the spokesperson said.
“We will continue to monitor the situation.”
A spokesman from Fair Trading NSW said they had not received any complaints in relation to the apartment complex.
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Carrie Fellner is an investigative reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Laura is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Jacob Saulwick is City Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald.