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The Legacy of Grenfell - Combustible Cladding in Queensland

The tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017 has brought about an increase in building regulation scrutiny and restored efforts to clamp down on the use of non-compliant building materials.

Grenfell is not the first fire of this kind. In 2014 the Lacrosse building in Melbourne’s Docklands caught fire due to combustible cladding being installed on apartment balconies. However it was not until the recent tragedy abroad that efforts to assess the extent of the buildings affected by this potentially hazardous material have escalated.

Authorities across the country are carrying out audits in the wake of these disasters, looking at all kinds of buildings that may be at risk. We do not yet know the scope of the buildings affected, however we do know that Queensland will not emerge unscathed once the assessments are complete.

What buildings are affected?

Affected buildings are those that:

  • had a building development approval issued after 1 January 1994 but before 1 October 2018 to construct the building or alter cladding.
  • are two storeys or higher; and
  • are residential or commercial in nature (excluding houses).

What are the authorities doing about it?

In response to the recent fires connected to combustible cladding materials, new Queensland laws will require building owners to complete a mandatory “combustible cladding checklist”.

Taking effect from 1 October 2018, the Building and Other Legislation (Cladding) Amendment Regulation 2018 (Qld) requires building owners to register their buildings and undertake a three stage online checklist to determine whether the building is affected. Owners (or bodies corporate for strata title buildings) must register and complete part one of the checklist by 29 March 2019, remembering that failing to comply with the new obligations is an offence carrying significant penalties.

What are the flow-on effects likely to be?

It is hard to know what consequences the assessment process of combustible cladding in Queensland will have, but it is likely that insurance policies, lending policies and the seller disclosure regime will have to adapt to account for newfound risks.

Additionally, the possibility of the presence of combustible cladding will be a discouragement to prospective buyers while affected buildings are unconfirmed, and a genuine deterrent once it is certain that the material is present.

In terms of rectification costs, we have seen in Victoria the introduction of “cladding rectification agreements”, where owners are to pay the funds required for building work through their council rates over a minimum period of ten years. However, the Lacrosse building owners are still disputing outstanding costs five years later.

For Queenslanders, only time will tell what effect these assessments will have on buyers, sellers and owners of affected buildings in general.

If you require further advice or assistance in relation to the matters discussed above, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.

This article was written by Frances Kelly, Graduate, and Michael Potts, Partner.

"The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication."