Opal Tower unit owners launch Supreme Court case after 500 new defects discovered

| 29.06,20. 07:55 PM |

Opal Tower unit owners launch Supreme Court case after 500 new defects discovered

Opal Tower owners have launched legal action against the NSW Government.(ABC: Nick Sas)

Owners of units in Sydney's Opal Tower have launched legal action against the NSW Government after discovering more than 500 new defects in the beleaguered building.

The owners' corporation launched the proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court against the Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA) — a NSW Government entity — and the builder Icon

The tower was evacuated on Christmas Eve 2018 when cracks started to appear in the building.

The owners' corporation claimed it had found more defects in the building and wanted SOPA held to account.

"We've been kept in the dark, as they've strung us along thinking its only the major defect you saw well publicised, but I can tell you there are over 500 other defects we were not aware of that have now come to light," owners' corporation chairman Shady Eskander said.

Mr Eskander said these defects were found by independent experts hired by the owners' corporation to inspect the building.

He said the insurance premium for the whole building this year came to more than $1 million — up from $100,000 in 2018.

This lawsuit is separate to a class action which was launched a year ago.

Mr Eskander said the owners were suing for the cost of fixing all defects in common areas, building inspections, project managers, insurance and legal fees.

Some residents who had been out of their apartments for seven months moved back into Opal Tower in August last year, but Mr Eskander said living in the building was not easy.

"It's very difficult to put into words, our homes are our greatest asset, it's where we make lasting memories," Mr Eskander said.

"We've had to deal with over 100 construction workers on the site, drilling noise all day … sometimes we've found we only have one lift working and we have to wait 10 minutes."

Mr Eskander said people had experienced difficulty with banks as a result of owning property in the well-known building.

"You say you own a property in Opal Tower, that property was worth $500,000 [or] $700,000 … the bank puts a zero against your name, you can't refinance, you can't get a small loan to buy a car."

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said today she wasn't aware of the new lawsuit, but said the Government was working to support the affected residents.

"We certainly have been there doing what we can and recently not only have we appointed a building commissioner but put through new legislation to protect owners into the future so certainly we appreciate the angst they're going through and we'll continue to support them in whichever way feels appropriate," Ms Berejiklian said.

Apartment owner Andrew Neverly said he had bought the unit as part of his retirement plan, but now it's worth nothing and he had to let his previous tenants break their lease.

"They had to move out they didn't feel safe, that was just weeks after the evacuation," he said.

"We've been fortunate in finding another tenant.

"It's emotionally been a real rollercoaster, when we bought into this we thought we were buying into the Australian dream."

A spokesperson for Icon said it had spent $40 million on remediation since the 2018 evacuation and were providing a 20-year structural warranty on 'rectification work' at the Opal Tower.

"Despite weekly meetings with the Opal Tower Owners Corporation, we only became aware of the overwhelming majority of recently identified alleged issues when legal action was launched," the spokesperson said.

"Icon remains ready to address any actual defects in Opal Tower as a priority and has asked the Owners Corporation for access to the building to identify any legitimate defects.

"While this permission has been denied to date, Icon will continue to address legitimate issues within apartments that are not the property of the Owners Corporation and has written to directly to individual apartment owners to obtain access."

A SOPA spokesperson declined to comment while the matter was before the court.


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