Jenny Leong MP, Member for Newtown has responded to changes to Strata Laws in NSW.
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (12:15):I speak on behalf of The Greens in debate on the Strata Schemes Management Amendment (Building Defects Scheme) Bill 2018. As we have heard, this bill seeks to amend the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 in relation to the scheme for rectifying building defects in new strata schemes, the details of which have been outlined clearly and responded to by the shadow Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation and the member for Swansea, as well as my crossbench colleague the member for Sydney. While The Greens do not oppose this bill,we have some questions and concerns about it that I will turn to now in the hope that the Minister will respond to them in his reply.
The first of these is in relation to the mechanism for how a disagreement between a strata committee and a developer will be dealt with on costs.The Act does not appear to provide a mechanism to deal with disagreement between a strata committee and a developer as to any amounts required to remedy a defect. It is unclear how much of the bond the strata committee is entitled to if the cost of remedial work is contested. I acknowledge that the amendment foreshadowed by the member for Sydney seeks to require improved transparency when it comes to the scope of the cost of works to be included. The Greens will happily support that amendment, but even if the Government supports the amendment, which we urge the Government to do, the question still remains as to how such disputes about amounts of money will be resolved. I seek clarification from the Minister on that issue.
The other area on which I seek clarification is the limited holding of a bond for two years and the early release of a bond. In relation to the limited holding of a bond for two years, I would appreciate the Minister responding specifically to concerns about the limit of two years, especially withregard to issues such as waterproofing. In relation to the early release of the bond and the timing of the holding and release of the bond, the concern is specifically around the fact that the bill speaks about a bond being able to be released early in some circumstances. I seek clarification as to what those circumstances are and whether those circumstances will be identified in regulations, or if the Minister can expand on the circumstances in which an early bond release would be enacted.
I also note that, as has been highlighted by the Opposition, many key stakeholders have expressed concerns about this bill. In one case one of those stakeholders has raised concern that this bill has been watered down so much that they question whether it will be effective at all in delivering on the initial intent to protect strata owners. I hope that the Government will look at ways to ensure that the intentions of this bill are being delivered on. The Greens are very happy to support the Opposition's amendments, as set out by the shadow Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation and the member for Swansea. The Greens intend to move an amendment in the Legislative Council seeking to remove the exemption from prosecution that the bill currently gives to building inspectors. We believe that that is too much protection for a professional who should have professional indemnity insurance.
As it stands, the bill will protect building inspectors from liability against any action, liability, claim or demand where an act or omission is done in good faith for the purpose of executing functions under this part. Such indemnity may be appropriate for volunteer strata committee representatives,but we would seriously question this protection for professional building inspectors. The Greens' amendment will seek to remove protections from liability for inspectors who are professionally qualified and should be expected to act professionally and be covered by professional liability insurance for such errors, rather than being provided with statutory protections.
More and more people are living in apartments, which means that more and more people are being impacted by strata laws. It is crucial andnecessary that we get these protections right. The protections that are put in place for people living in strata communities—strata apartments—throughout our city and throughout our State need to be protected from the dodgy developers and the people who are more interested in short-term and quick money-making profits than they are in building beautiful homes for people to live in. The Greens believe that all people have the right to a safe, secure, habitable and affordable place to call home. We will continue to advocate for this right for all people in New South Wales.