Friday, June 6, 2014

NSW hands builders and developers rents, again

NSW is preparing to streamline laws to enable redevelopment of strata-title lots. These new laws give more power to developers attempting to amalgamate lots, which will enable them to force sales from owners if 90% of owners agree. Developers are pushing for that threshold to be brought down to 75%, since this would further increase their bargaining power and ability to extract economic rent.

As I said earlier
While I would need more facts to judge the appropriateness of the law, it is worth noting that this is a complete shift in bargaining power towards developers and away from the existing strata unit owners as a collective. 
For example, a developer only needs to buy 50% of lots to get the process started, and then only get agreement from 50% of remaining lot owners. They are effectively able to squeeze the final hold-out owners – transferring rent from those owners to themselves in the process.
Now NSW is going a step further in their quest to transfer rents to the development industry. The recently passed Home Building Amendment Bill 2014 will not only reduce the liability of builders and developers for building defects, but will be enacted retrospectively to apply to building contracts entered from 1 February 2012.

If you bought a new apartment build since February 2012, you have now lost many of your previous rights of recourse to the builder or developer in the case of defective construction. 

One of Sydney’s leading strata lawyers, David Bannerman, sent me a short summary of the changes under the heading NSW Government Hands Developers a Windfall
Now that the Home Building Amendment Bill 2014 has passed the Upper House (28 May 2014), the NSW Government will be able to introduce changes that will massively reduce the liability of builders and developers for building defects so that in many cases owners will have to bear the burden of repairs themselves. 
Amongst many changes designed to have that effect, most defects will now only have a two year warranty period from the date of completion. This change will apply retrospectively to contracts entered into after 1 February 2012, unless a claim has already been made either with the court or the home warranty insurer by the time of assent.
This change merely hands over liability from builders and developers to owners who had paid for services over the past two years. Mere transfer of obligations away from builders and developers.

There’s two wins for the development and construction industry, and two losses for owners of strata title lots. Incremental legal changes such as this reveal a lot about government priorities.

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