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AustraliaZetland apartments abandoned in secret evacuation over 'severe' defects

00:57  10 july  2019
00:57  10 july  2019 Source:   smh.com.au

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Zetland apartments abandoned in secret evacuation over 'severe' defects© Kate Geraghty The evacuated apartments on Gadigal Avenue in Zetland.

An inner Sydney apartment building remains abandoned eight months after its occupants were evacuated over water and fire safety defects, in revelations expected to deliver a fresh blow to confidence in the city's building standards.

The Herald has confirmed that the owners and tenants moved out of 30 loft-style apartments at 19 Gadigal Avenue in Zetland last year.

The emergence of a third residential unit building with severe defects will intensify pressure on the state government to address concerns about building standards. Cracking forced the evacuation of Sydney Olympic Park's Opal Tower on Christmas Eve and the Mascot Towers on Bourke Street last month.

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Zetland apartments abandoned in secret evacuation over 'severe' defects© Kate Geraghty A fire exit sign was dangling from the ceiling at the site of the abandoned apartments on Tuesday.

Less than a month ago, the minister responsible for the building industry, Kevin Anderson, said there was no "great cause for alarm" about building quality with no need to rush into reforms.

The state government is currently consulting over a clutch of proposed reforms as part of the "Building Stronger Foundations" package, which would include a new registration scheme for building designers and the appointment of a Building Commissioner to regulate the industry.

Zetland apartments abandoned in secret evacuation over 'severe' defects© Kate Geraghty Exposed wiring in the ceiling of one of the apartments in Zetland.

The controversy surrounding the latest building evacuation also raises public disclosure questions in regards to serious defects.

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In response to questions, a City of Sydney spokesman said the council became aware of the evacuation in late 2018 and confirmed it remains empty.

"A City of Sydney officer inspected the building in February, 2019, and found the building to be vacant with extensive and severe water damage," the spokesman said.

"The water damage caused the failure of the internal fire-rated construction throughout several apartments.

Zetland apartments abandoned in secret evacuation over 'severe' defects© Supplied Images of the Zetland apartments before serious defects emerged.

"The fire-rated construction is required to separate individual apartments and common areas during a fire."

When the Herald visited the site on Tuesday, the apartments were in a dilapidated state.

Behind locked glass doors, an emergency exit sign could be seen dangling from ceiling, electrical wiring was exposed, walls and ceilings were damaged and a walkway was missing several planks.

Zetland apartments abandoned in secret evacuation over 'severe' defects

Zetland apartments abandoned in secret evacuation over 'severe' defects The apartments remain empty and dilapidated eights months after occupants were ordered out over safety concerns.

Timber boards and piles of unopened mail were strewn in the foyers.

Owners Corporation Network chair Stephen Goddard said there has been a "conspiracy of silence" around building defects for years due to confidential legal settlements and owners' fears of damage to property values.

Zetland apartments abandoned in secret evacuation over 'severe' defects© Supplied The interior of the Zetland apartments before serious defects emerged.

The Zetland apartments, known as the Garland Lofts, were built 10 years ago as part of a multi-stage development in the precinct.

The developer was a company called Garland 204 Pty Ltd, two directors of which were Phillip Bartlett and Janet Pennington.

Mr Bartlett was approached for comment.

It's understood there has been ongoing litigation between multiple parties over defects in the building and the Herald does not seek to attribute responsibility to any particular party.

The homes were marketed as New York style loft apartments, featuring large glass windows and combining "designer flair with industrial chic."

"There's also a small shopping centre going in over the road so once you're here,you won't need to go anywhere else," promotional material said.

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Zetland resident Carolyn Hammond was at a cafe across the road on the day the Gadigal building was evacuated. She said some of the owners were in tears at the news they would be forced to leave their homes.

"Bang, bang, bang, everyone moved out," she said, adding she was concerned about quality of building standards in the area generally.

"They're creating the ghettos of the future if they're not careful."

The City of Sydney spokesperson said its staff had liaised with the building's owners, who had engaged consultants to address the defects and make the apartments habitable again.

"Following our inspection, an order was issued to ensure the building was kept in a safe condition while vacant," the spokesperson said.

"We will continue to monitor the situation."

A spokesman from Fair Trading NSW said they had not received any complaints in relation to the apartment complex.

Do you know more? Email carrie.fellner@smh.com.au

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