Mr Chandler was shocked when he visited the building last October, after Fire and Rescue NSW urged him to inspect the tower due to fire-safety concerns. Just one of its two lifts worked, and the other shaft was too small to fit its lift due to construction flaws.
The tower is one of two developed on a large site in Auburn’s town centre by western Sydney property developer and builder Merhis. On its website, Merhis describes the buildings – named Aya Eliza – as “architectural landmarks of the finest standard”.
But Mr Chandler said the tower at 93 Auburn Rd ticked “about every box” in failing to meet critical benchmarks in fire safety, structure, waterproofing and building enclosures. He has vowed to “go from top to bottom” of the high-rise when his powers come into force on September 1.
First-home buyer Ellie Zhang said she wanted authorities to check the building, because she did not feel safe after seeing builders still working on the tower when she shifted in.
“I had to pay a lot and this is my first apartment. I expect a lot more from it,” she said.
She moved into a two-bedroom apartment on the sixth floor a year ago, after buying it off the plan in 2018 for $650,000. “It wasn’t finished … and the building wasn’t painted properly. There was a hole in our roof,” she said.
Under laws passed this month, a statutory duty of care applies to all new buildings and those less than a decade old, allowing owners to sue those responsible for defects. Mr Chandler’s key power will be his ability to withhold occupation certificates, which will stop builders or developers from forcing buyers to settle on properties with defects.
After warnings from Fire and Rescue NSW, Cumberland Council inspected the building at Auburn Road and slapped an emergency fire safety order on it and the other tower which backs onto it at 18 Harrow Road last October due to “various faults”.
The council issued a further three orders between November and March requiring structural engineers and fire safety experts to report on the 251-unit development’s overall compliance with the building code as it relates to “general construction integrity” and fire safety. Those reports are expected by the end of July.
But Merhis managing director Dave Stickland said the defects raised had “largely already been resolved” or were in the process of being remedied.
“The builder takes these type of claims very seriously and will continue to actively manage the resolution of the defects claimed,” he said in a statement.
“Many of the items raised are latent defects or were caused by extreme weather events (as well as several incidents involving damage by tenants).”
Cumberland Council said Fire and Rescue NSW had indicated the emergency fire safety order slapped on the building last October had since been complied with.
When Mr Chandler visited 93 Auburn Rd, officials found a lift shaft was “so far out of plumb” the installers could not find a vertical pathway for the lift. Builders removed a layer of concrete to try to make the lift fit but ended up buying a smaller lift instead.
Holes were also punched in some of the fire-rated enclosures around openings to the lift shaft on each floor, which made them ineffective.
In the basement, large amounts of construction waste were found, posing a risk because “all of the smoke would have gone up the lift shaft” if it had caught fire. Leaks were also found in the basement where a pump was used to discharge pooled water.
If a fire had broken out and smoke filled the basement, firefighters risked running head-first into a ventilation duct because it was installed too low in front of a fire pump room entrance.
Comfort Living Strata Management, which acts as the strata manager for 93 Auburn Road, did not respond to questions.
Matt O’Sullivan is City Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald.