“The Insanity of Building Rectification” or “The Man with the Silicon Gun”


The definition of insanity is to do the same action repeatedly even though the outcome never changes.An example would be the staggeringly insane behaviour of generals in the First World War who sent wave after wave of young men to certain death in the quest for a few hundred yards.

Similarly, we’ve all see builders who send back the same guy with a silicon gun over and over and over again hoping that one day there will be enough goo in the roof, balcony or wall to deal with that intensely annoying leak that never seems to stop.

Heaven forbid that the builder might actually stop and give some thought to exactly why the leak is happening rather than applying a band-aid that was never going to work.

The question is why does this happen? Here are some reasons I can think of:

(a) activity and the appearance of progress is more important than actual progress, mainly because it is cheaper (in the short term) and it shuts up those pesky owners;
(b) it maximises the possibility that the relevant litigation period will expire before any legal action is taken against the builder; and
(c) it is in keeping with the psychology of builders who have a compulsion to act even if they don’t know how to act.

The key takeaway message here is that activity is not necessarily an appropriate substitute for the careful and considered thought that must precede worthwhile action. Unfortunately, careful and considered thought involves effort and attention to detail which does not come naturally to most people (including builders). Indeed, many defects would be avoided if the builder spent more time working through the detail during the construction phase.

The trouble is, with the passing of the position of clerk of works and the introduction of private certifiers whose responsibility is limited to only certain checks, there is unfortunately no one in the building process looking after the detail.

Building Defects, Death and Dying

On Death & Dying (grief)

The Swiss American psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross in her landmark 1969 work “On Death and Dying” described the five steps people go through when they are told they have a terminal disease and are about to die. The five steps are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

People who have bought an apartment with building defects go through a similar range of emotions and it’s important for strata managers and body corporate members to be able to identify them.

Denial – if we can put people on the moon and feed billions of people, how is it possible that the apartment I paid $600,000 for …….. leaks!!!  It can’t be possible and yet it still leaks every time it rains. This stage is a short one.

Anger – some people just like being angry. And it can last for years. Strata managers are particularly familiar with this stage as they are the first to be called when there’s a problem. After a while this anger is transferred to the builder, developer, government and anyone else who might be remotely connected to the building.

Bargaining – here the owner negotiates about how they’ll deal with the defect. “I’ll deal with it after my exam, overseas holiday, cosmetic surgery or [whatever other excuse they can find]” or “This is the problem of my strata manager, building manager, local member, Office of Fair Trading and [anyone else but me], they should deal with it.”

Depression – it’s all too hard. The builder has come back dozens of times, there’s more silicon in the roof than in 100 Dolly Partons and the roof still leaks. There’s nothing that can be done except give up.

Acceptance – This is the revelation that the defects won’t fix themselves, I’m the person responsible for the building and I need to deal with it. It’s only at this point that things begin to move in a constructive direction.

And different people move through the stages at different speeds. In my experience, owners who have a commercial or business background are able to get to acceptance more quickly than others. It is up to them as well as strata managers to understand what stages the owners are going through and to help them through the stages. This is important as the more owners reach acceptance, the more likely:

(a) they act in a constructive and co-ordinated way;

(b) consequential damage to lot and common property is minimised;

(c) key limitations periods associated with insurance policies and litigation are not missed; and

(d) the defects get addressed in an appropriate way.

Phoenix Companies, River Phoenix and Government Inaction


In Greek mythology, a phoenix is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn.  Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by rising from the ashes of its predecessor. Mmmmm. That’s a bit boring. Let’s start again.

TISM’s (This Is Serious Mum) 1995 anthem “I’m on the drug that killed River Phoenix” is actually a scathing indictment on many people’s addiction to vicariously following celebrities and their excesses and premature deaths. As with a number of TISM songs, it is a comment on the fairly vapid state of popular culture. This really has nothing to do with phoenix companies but I thought I’d work it in anyway due to the very tenuous connection between the name River Phoenix and Phoenix companies.

In my experience, I have seen a lot of builders engage in phoenix company activity and its evil twin, company name swapping (where the name of a company is changed and another company is incorporated with a name identical to the former name of the first company)

The relevant legislation that the Commonwealth Parliament has finally put forward to begin to address phoenix company activity is the Corporations Amendment (Phoenixing and Other Measures) Bill 2012.

The Phoenixing and Other Measures Bill, which was passed in May 2012, gives ASIC power to order the winding up of a company when, among other reasons, it appears to ASIC that the company is no longer carrying on its business.  This could be used in relation to name swapping but in reality is a pretty tame piece of legislation.

On the other hand, the Corporations Amendment (Similar Names) Bill 2012, which has some real teeth by seeking to impose liability on a director for debts incurred by a company (the debtor company) when that director was also the director of a ‘failed company’ with the same or a similar name as the debtor company, is still in limbo. Well, it’s really not in limbo. Rather it was drafted but never even introduced into Parliament. Indeed, given it was a bill originally drafted under a Labor Government, I think we can be pretty confident this Bill will not be introduced into Parliament anytime soon.

So, there’s still some work to be done on this front and the ultimate and final death of the phoenix is yet to occur.  But if the Commonwealth starts taking phoenixing activity seriously, we’ll be ready to fry that bird ….

DIY Property Development


From the country that gave you the Volkswagen (Volk – people, Wagen – car), the people’s car, now comes the latest idea for the people.

Do it yourself property development.

In Kreuzberg, a trendy suburb in Berlin, a community has bandied together to develop a large apartment complex that is designed to precisely meet their needs.

The homeowners collaborated with the developer and consultants and all decisions from planning, to building standards, to the location of communal rooms and the layout of the balconies were made jointly. That is, all decisions were made according to the desires of the homeowners as a whole.

An innovator in the car industry has now become an innovator in the property development industry.  How long will it take until a smart developer grabs this idea and runs with it in Australia?

See the link below for more information

Goldilocks and the Three Rectification Orders



In a land far, far away there once lived a little girl called Goldilocks.

Now Goldilocks lived in an apartment full of defects and every time it rained, water used to come in from the balcony until one day Goldilocks finally contracted a dust disease from inhaling mould spores.When coming back from the hospital and a double lung transplant, Goldilocks decided to take a short cut through the forest to get home quickly.

Many people believed that the forest was a foreboding and dangerous place, but Goldilocks knew that this was an irrational fear based on cultural paradigms instilled by a patriarchal society that regarded the natural world as an exploitable resource, and hence believed that natural predators were in fact intolerable competitors.  Other people avoided the woods for fear of thieves and deviants, but Goldilocks felt that in a truly classless society all marginalised peoples would be able to “come out” of the woods and be accepted as valid lifestyle role models.

So, while walking through the forest, she stumbled upon a house and walked in to see three bowls of porridge which were labelled ‘ACT rectification order’, ‘Queensland direction to rectify’ and ‘NSW rectification order.’

She sat down and tested the bowl entitled ‘NSW rectification order’ and exclaimed ‘This one is far too weak!’  She then tasted the Queensland direction to rectify and exclaimed ‘The cook didn’t follow the recipe!’  She then came to the last bowl labelled ‘ACT rectification order’, tasted it and said ‘This is just right although I think it would have been slow to make.’

If you were the Victorian minister in charge of implementing a new regime of rectification orders for Victoria (which has not had any rectifications orders except against plumbers for defective plumbing work), what would be the moral of the story?

We are expert cooks on rectification orders.  If you want one whipped up, ring us now. Here’s one we made earlier …