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Owners pay for fatal floor in wrongly-approved unit

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  • Owners pay for fatal floor in wrongly-approved unit

    This sounds very Irish.
    Owners pay for fatal floor in wrongly-approved unit

    • by: David Murray
    • From: The Sunday Mail (Qld)
    • August 19, 2012 12:00AM

    The developer of this unit block built a top storey without planning permission. Picture: Darren England Source: The Sunday Mail (Qld)

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    IT'S the five-storey apartment block that council says only had approval for four storeys - and residents are paying the price.

    In a debacle that could happen to anyone, owners did everything by the book when they bought their apartments at 9 Amisfield Ave, Nundah.
    But they were later told the block was wrongly approved, and they were responsible for a costly new development application.
    The dispute has dragged on for more than three years, with the owners facing mounting legal bills and unable to sell their properties because of the uncertainty.
    Meanwhile, the private certifier who approved the building, clearing the way for the owners to buy their units, was given a small fine.
    "We did everything to the letter of the law. This could happen to anyone," said Carmel Clayton, whose 79-year-old mother owns one of the apartments. The case is just one of many examples of failure of the state's private certification system, which took building approvals out of council hands 14 years ago.

    The developer gained initial council approval in 2005 to build a four-storey block with 15 apartments and a gross floor area of 862sq m.
    But after a 2008 complaint, Brisbane City Council found the completed block had an extra storey and a gross floor area of almost 1600sq m.
    Unsuspecting apartment owners were suddenly told in 2009 they faced fines of up to $166,500 each if they failed to lodge the new development application and obtain retrospective approval.
    They have been unable to resolve the issue since, and fear costs could skyrocket if the building has to be altered to meet fire, parking or other regulations.
    Under initial plans, the building should have had a shared roof deck with access from a central set of stairs.
    But the completed building used the roof area for master bedrooms for each of the four apartments on the fourth floor.
    The developer maintains the building was lawfully constructed in accordance with certified approvals. A spokesman for the developer said last week council had given the green light to changes.
    "We got all the advice we required at the time from council. We acted on that advice. Then council turned around and said that's not good enough," he said.
    "That's the stupidity of the whole system. Nobody has security of tenure because anybody can object to anything. No building is built exactly in accordance with their approval. There are differences as you go along, and that's why you consult."
    Council prosecuted certifier Phillip Leung in the magistrates court for approving building work that was inconsistent with earlier council approvals, and he was fined $3000.
    The Building Services Authority separately found Mr Leung engaged in unsatisfactory conduct over the development, but did not move to revoke his registration.
    Mr Leung said last week he approved changes to the initial plans only after a town planner consulted council and received the go-ahead. He believed he would have been cleared in court but could not afford to fight the case.
    Brisbane City Council said it had offered to fast-track the new development application for owners and halve the fee.
    Council development assessment chairwoman Amanda Cooper said Amisfield was "just one of many examples" and called for a BSA overhaul to force a crackdown on certifiers.
    "At the end of the day we can't have people living in illegal dwellings and we need to rectify it," she said. "The BSA needs to be toughened up to stop the laws being flouted in the first place."

    "There's one way to find out if a man is honest-ask him. If he says 'yes,' you know he is a crook." Groucho Marx

  • #2
    That seems so annoying. I think that's a risk you face from property investing, although I think it's a rare risk.
    Alsways good to have a solicitor handy