Buildings with combustible cladding

SCA (NSW) met with representatives from the Fire Safety and External Wall Cladding Taskforce early last week for an update on the inter-agency approach being taken to identify buildings with fire safety risks posed by external wall cladding. They advised that they are perfecting their data from all feedback received, such as from responses to letters sent to building owners, DA’s submitted, inspections performed by Fire and Safety NSW and from local councils taking action. They are mainly working on providing awareness for building owners and are working on risk mitigation such as sprinklers to reduce the number of buildings requiring actual rectification.

Building owners whose legal responsibility it is to ensure fire safety can expect to receive more correspondence from Government authorities collecting information. A key message from our meeting with the Cladding Taskforce is ‘If your building has cladding, don’t wait for a letter, get a fire inspection done now’.

The NSW Government is also introducing numerous legislative reforms as part of its wide-ranging fire safety package. These will impact schemes under management by our membership and it is important to understand the obligations imposed by this new legislative reform.

The introduction from 18 December 2017 of new laws contained in the Building Products (Safety) Act 2017 will empower the government to prohibit the use of a specified building product in a building, such as external cladding, by identifying, restricting and rectifying building products which pose a safety risk in buildings, including a safety risk that arises in the event of fire. It also includes significant powers on government authorities to inspect, test and require removal of unsafe building products.

Under the draft Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Identification of Buildings with Combustible Cladding) Regulation 2017  owners of buildings with combustible cladding will be required to identify whether cladding is present on schemes,  undertake an independent fire safety assessment and make a declaration to Government which will be included on a public register. This amendment is currently on public exhibition until 16 February 2018.  Upon enactment the Regulation requires schemes to make the above declaration within three months.

SCA (NSW) has advocated that at a minimum external wall cladding be classified as a major defect under the Home Building Act and we have had a partial win in respect to Building Products (Safety) Act 2017 via an amendment to the Home Building Act 1989. This amendment now includes unsafe products as an item potentially attracting a six year statutory warranty. While unfortunately, this is not retrospective SCA (NSW) is committed to continue lobbying for existing schemes to be afforded the extended six year statutory warranty protection for these products in the interest of consumer protection.

We encourage you to review the draft regulation and submit your feedback to by Friday 16 February 2018.

For more information