Pitfalls in buying an apartment including issues and defects


We’re working on a story about the potential pitfalls in buying an apartment. Research has found many apartment blocks have defects. I’m looking for experiences of apartment owners who may have had issues with defects in their building.

I’d love to hear about the experience - what the defect was, whether you knew about the defect before you bought in, whether the issue has been resolved and if so how (ie. who paid? the owners, developer or insurance company), and how much it has cost you in repairs. It would also be great to hear any retrospective tips/what would you do differently next time.

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I bought a house, almost like a dual occ. Two houses on one block attached. We have a strata as a result. Would you like to hear my story?

Hi, Yes I would be very interested to hear your story. Thanks.

We moved into a 55’s and over in Sydney just before Christmas with 9 Villas in the complex.
When we provided a long list of defects to the developer, he just referred to the Builder to fix the problems which the person fixed several items and didn’t provide of when he would fix the other issues.
In late July he was terminated by the Builder and on only now are that he is preparing information and has only last week inspected all Villa,s and either agrees to fix to or says that some defects will not be done as the Developer told the builder specifically not to do some items that was in our purchase contract.

In regards to major defects
Water Tanks have timber Sinking into the ground
2 Garage Doors have collapsed
Guttering in 2 Villas had rain water into there Villa causing Mold through the Villa which is only be fixed now by the Builder

Our external fence is leaning on Council fence which also effects 2 other Villa’s
The Developer specifically told the builder not to do the work!

So we are now waiting for defects with no specific dates for when the work will be done

We are now considering to employ someone to re-review our our Villa to ensure that we have no other defects

Hello Jemma Castle
Re Defects in Apartment Blocks

My wife and I purchased and moved into a two bedroom unit in a block of 30 residential and 11 retail units in Mona Vale six years ago. The building was about five years old.
Because it is a mixed use building there are three Owners Committees plus three Strata Managers and three sets of accounts involved in the building management. This is a complete overkill but required by The Strata Management Act of NSW.
As well as pushing up the cost of the strata levies it is inefficient and often the cause of considerable delay in decision making.
We purchased with our eyes open as our solicitor obtained as much information as possible from the Strata Managers including past minutes and a detailed list of building faults prepared by an outside engineering consultant which was to be the basis of a claim against the builder. The list was costed at $200,000. We factored our unit’s share into our purchase price offer as a precaution.
Our building was commenced prior to the compulsory “Home Owners Insurance” legislation and the builder declared himself bankrupt shortly after we purchased. Our strata solicitors advised that we could make a claim on the property developers but with no guarantee of success and potentially a long and costly legal process. As a result the owners decided to drop the litigation and meet the cost with an initial special levy of $150,000.
As a retired engineer and available most days I was welcomed to the Strata Committee shortly after moving in and have been involved in virtually all of the remedial work.
In agreement with the published building industry statistics (by number) the most common faults have been related to water ingress. These have been spread over the following areas.

Open balconies: The tiled floors while looking quite OK were found to be very poorly graded (sloped) so that rain water did not flow to the drain location. In many cases the water banked up against the interior enclosing walls eventually penetrating and causing carpet damage and mould.
Also the balcony floor membranes were either faulty or missing and coupled with the water ponding allowed water to penetrate the floor slab producing efflorescence (stalictites) on the underside. This total problem pointed to poor workmanship.
On the basis of prevention as the best and affordable cure it was decided to roof all of the open balconies. The total cost for 12 balconies was approx. $90,000.

 Building Roof: The external membrane on the flat concrete sections of the roof had damaged areas which was one of the few items repaired by the builder.
 There are 19 ventilation fans on the roof mounted on ductwork that service bathrooms throughout the building. Poor ductwork and fan sealing has been the source of a large number of water ingress problems with water travelling to many areas. Even now we frequently have one or more complaint after a severe storm.

 Garden Areas: There are numerous internal unroofed lightwells with garden beds as part of the adjacent units. These are the continuing source of water problems on two counts. Firstly the membrane lining of some garden beds has failed allowing water penetration under the surrounding tiled floor surface and through the enclosing walls.

The second and most serious problem is that the outdoor tiled area floor levels are higher than the interior floor levels of adjacent bedrooms. Waterproofing is therefore totally dependent on the floor to wall sealing compound. This is an obvious builder error and is an ongoing maintenance problem.

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As we are more and more moving from living in a house and land Australians are slowly following the lead of overseas as more of us live in apartments or invest in apartments. I would like to see more consumer issues covering apartment living. Especially as in NSW new strata laws are being released.

I have been on ECs and an owner of apartments and I find some strata managers, developers and building managers often lose sight of who the owners are that often carry the biggest burden with little control.

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After many years of trying all different properties I have 2 on my list that would never, ever, ever, ever or ever again live in, the first is a strata title property and the second a building with a lift (elevator). Both will bleed you dry with body corporate or common area/lift maintenance fees and the management group/resident council will attempt impose their will on you. The constant hand out for something and friction of these arrangements leave me cold.

In my opinion the rates I pay and the garden upkeep on my freehold are literally a small price to pay compared to those 2 other options.

IMO freehold is cheaper in the long run plus I don’t have the neighbours telling me to cut my grass, paint my gutters and front door but only the colors they decide and I can park my car in my driveway or on the front lawn if I chose. And when I come home there will be no ones else’s car in my spot (other wise I would have it towed away).

What sort of consumer issues have you in mind?

I have been involved in a large strata title building ssince 2000 where developer owners and building managers have had a greater control than the average owner. Not to mention the building manager farming for proxies. Way to many concerns to raise here in short but will keep this thread updated. E.G Even lawyers have difficulty not being sucked in. My lesson from it all is be careful and expect to lose control or any say in large stratas. Probably the same as having a few shares in a multinational. All you may be able to do is ride the waves.

Five out of 18 people in our strata put down wooden floors. Only one requested to do so despite the by laws stating clearly that such a move must be approved by the Body Corp in advance.

All 5 of them have made an awful noise for those residents living underneath and above them leading to complaints and intimations from the Body Corp that under current law owners can be forced to replace them. There are wails that the installers met the standards. I’d like to know what standards there are.

As far as I can work out, if you place a wooden floor over a concrete floor you have to nail the floor onto some sort of wooden framework underneath. In effect this creates a drum with wood on one side and concrete on the other. No matter how much insulation you place in the drum it will never deaden the noise completely.

Those, such as myself, who have carpet on the units above and below are very fortunate. The minute this changes I will sell up and move elsewhere.

Under the new Strata laws will it be possible for individual strata to have by-laws forbidding wooden floors. Will it also be possible to force current owners with unapproved wooden floors to replace them with carpet. Perhaps this could be done if and when the unit is sold with a reduction in price if new owners must recarpet (probably cost about $6k.

Deborah Webb

Hi Deborah

The same noise issue applies to tiles laid onto concrete floors in living areas. I lived in a unit with both tiles and a wooden floor in the unit overhead, AND, the occupant (female) had a penchant for wearing high heals. This was made worse by the fact that she often came home late at night/early morning and then walked around for ages. The noise affected not only my unit, but carried through the structure to surrounding units. GRRRR. So you have my sympathy.

I have no knowledge about any standards for laying wooden floors, BUT, the by-laws of the Body Corporate MUST be abided by.

Where I lived we required wooden floors to be laid with an acoustic rubber underlay to insulate them from the structure. These worked quite well.

I don’t know if you are in NSW, but have a look at http://www.ocn.org.au/book/export/html/1200 which is from NSW.

By the way, we did not allow any more tiled floors to be installed apart from bathrooms, laundries, and balconies.

In your case, for the five units with wooden floors installed without approval, the Executive Committee of the Body Corporate can require the owners at their expense to either

  1. remove the wooden floors and replace with carpet as the alterations were not approved, or
  2. seek EC of BC approval to install rubber underlay under the wooden floor so that sound does not travel through to the concrete. This means that they need to show the EC what they intend to install and have it approved.
    Give them a reasonable time to comply, eg two months.

While it is most considerate to wait, it really is the responsibility of the owners to bear the costs, and if the EC decides they need to comply, it must be done. These five owners cannot be allowed to ruin the amenity of the other owners because of their flouting the by-laws. The transgressing owners should have thought of the cost of not complying when they installed the floors.

Hi Meltam6554
Thanks for your response. I can assure you that despite all the wooden floor laying people claiming the installers did meet standards it is still very noisy for those above and below. To be honest I don’t think any rubber insulation will be as effective as carpet with an underlay which sits directly on the concrete. The wood option is not installed direct on the concrete but is supported by studs leaving a hollow space between the wood flooring and the concrete thus creating a drum effect as walking on it especially in high heels is amplified.

Deborah Webb

Hi @deborah1901

I suggest that you are being led a merry chase.

Putting wooden floors onto wooden studs onto the concrete is NOT a standard as far as I know, and I couldn’t actually find any Australian Standards for installing wooden flooring. There are some guidelines, and there are standard (common or generally used) ways of doing it, but that is different from Australian Standards which must be followed. Standard ways include using studs, gluing onto the floor underneath, using underlay, etc. This does not make them right in every situation. The correct method needs to be used for the situation.

I believe that the use of studs a quick, cheap, and easy way to eliminate unevenness in the concrete floor onto which the wooden floor is to be laid. It is NOT a Standard. Installing studs onto a concrete floor under a wooden floor will result in the wooden floor acting as a drum to transmit sound through the concrete floor. As I’m sure you now realize.

The correct way of installing wooden floors in a strata block on concrete floors is using a floating floor system with acoustic underlay. The outcome is there is no direct contact between the wood floor and the concrete with no transmission of sound through the structure of the building.

Look it up on the internet. Search for “floating wood floor acoustic underlay” (without the quotes).

We’ve recently had a look at some common strata problems, including the proliferation of broken buildings.

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