Clock ticking on dangerous cladding

28 April 2021

Time is running out for a group of building owners to complete the process established by the State Government’s Safer Buildings Taskforce to eliminate risk of catastrophic building fires caused by combustible cladding.

The Safer Buildings Program has cleared 17,375 buildings of potentially combustible cladding since 2018, but the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) is reminding remaining building owners, who have not completed the process, that they have only days to finalise their reports before becoming liable for fines.

Under the legislation introduced to compel rectification of dangerous buildings, owners of buildings must complete the process before the May 3 deadline passes, following which a fine of up to $22,019.25 applies.

QBCC Commissioner Brett Bassett said throughout the extensive, two-year process, most building owners, managers and body corporates have taken their responsibility seriously to ensure the building they own and manage is safe for all users.

“Everyone has a right to feel safe in the buildings they live or work in and it’s good to see that 90 per cent of those buildings have completed the process to give those assurances,” Mr Bassett said.

“The regulations are all about uncovering those potentially unsafe buildings, so that Queensland can avoid a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 71 people, or the several near misses here in Australia, like the Lacrosse fire in Melbourne, which caused $12.7 million in damage.

“Only after all the buildings have been through the Safer Buildings Program will we have a clear picture of how many buildings are a cladding fire risk and what is required to ensure building owners rectify them.”

Mr Bassett said while the deadline is fast approaching, there is still time for building owners to put the safety of Queenslanders first.

“Once that deadline passes, the QBCC is required under the legislation to commence regulatory action,” the Commissioner said.

“While the appropriate regulatory action will be determined on a case-by-case basis, there are strict penalties under the regulation for those found to have broken the law, including fines of more than $22,000.

“The State Government established significant resources and guidance for building owners, including guidance to avoid price gouging by building practitioners, so it is difficult to see what legitimate reason there would be for not completing the process after two years.

“Above any penalty set out in the regulation is the moral and common law onus on a building owner to ensure the building is safe for its occupants.”

With just days left, around 1,900 buildings are yet to complete the program, which in most cases, is to simply submit an assessment of whether or not the building has any combustible cladding or not.”

The ongoing completion of the process, and the subsequent outcomes, are being overseen by the Safer Buildings Taskforce, which includes the Board of Professional Engineers, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and the QBCC, to ensure that a considered and coordinated approach can be taken in relation to the cladding fire risk exposed across the nation.

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