Queensland’s Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath has recently considered a proposal put forth by the Property Council of Australia that would allow whole unit blocks to be sold to developers with the consent of just 75% of owners. Under current legislation, all owners within a strata scheme need to agree to sell before the sale can take place.
The reaction from many unit owners in Queensland has been one of outrage, with many believing that the proposal favours wealthy developers by allowing them to force unit owners into selling, restricting their rights as a property owner. However the president of the Property Council of Australia, Chris Mountford, has suggested the move would ultimately benefit many people who are living in buildings that are riddled with concrete cancer and are paying massive repair bills due to a small minority of owners that refuse to sell.
Concrete cancer refers to building damage caused by concrete cracking and allowing water to penetrate through, causing the steel reinforcements of the building to rust. This then pushes away the concrete surrounding the reinforcements, resulting in the concrete falling away. Concrete cancer is a prominent issue, particularly on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, where humid weather and saltwater spray exacerbate the degradation. The cost of fixing concrete cancer is often extremely high – an example of an affected building is Focus Apartments on the Gold Coast, where the cost of repairing concrete cancer has been quoted in excess of $2.7 million.
A poll undertaken by the Gold Coast Bulletin gives an idea of people’s opinions on the sale of buildings with concrete cancer, posing the question “If 75% of unit owners want to sell if there’s concrete cancer in the building, should the remaining owners be forced to sell?” Of 1061 responses, 70.88% were in favour of the change, while only 29.12% voted against the proposal.
It is important to consider that the changes will also apply to buildings that do not have concrete cancer issues, and many lot owners have raised concerns that 75% is far too low, particularly in smaller strata schemes. Should the changes be implemented, lot owners will of course be able to challenge the decision in court to stop the sale from going forward.