A former resident in the troubled Opal Tower has captured the true extent of the cracked building’s problems.
During a recent visit to the Sydney high-rise, Chris Abram spotted builder Icon’s remediation worksheet and was horrified to see the amount of red on the page, indicating units that residents cannot return to.
While previous reports have said 50 units were gutted, 105 are highlighted as red in the list of 397 apartments.
But Icon said not all 105 required remediation work, with some being in “close proximity” to units that did.
“A significant number of these are in close proximity with apartments where works will be carried out and so to ensure amenity for residents these too will be kept vacant,” it said.
Mr Abram returned to the building with his dad to check on his belongings, having not returned since the evacuation week on Christmas Eve.
He immediately attempted to break his lease after the second evacuation days later because he did not want to go back, and remains in an ongoing disagreement with his property manager because he never got the termination in writing.
“Once I heard there was a 10-day period (to not return) I submitted my termination notice,” he said.
“The real estate doesn’t want to accept the idea that my unit is uninhabitable.”
Mr Abram has complained to Fair Trading NSW because an agreement cannot be reached.
A spokeswoman from Fair Trading said since December 27 the department had received 137 inquiries and 10 complaints relating to Opal.
They have primarily been from tenants requesting information on breaking their lease, or their responsibilities associated with paying rent while they are unable to reside in the building.
Mr Abram said his concern was safety and the fact parties sent it to investigate the problem had not been in agreement.
“When the news first broke my two cats were still in the building,” he said.
“On Christmas Day I got my cats and left immediately, I didn’t want to spend anymore time in there.
“The things that are of most concern to myself and most other residents is they didn’t really give an opinion on residents moving back in, but they said designers must ensure some criteria are met.
“It’s confusing because the builder has issued a statement to say it’s safe to move back in but before you move back in this criteria must be met.”
Mr Abram said while he believed the government’s investigators might have been less biased and taken greater precaution, no on would give a straight answer.
“They’re not so direct to say the place is unsafe to inhabit so the real estate jumps on that to say you can’t break your lease.”
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Residents still have no timeline for when they can return to their apartments, despite the government’s report declaring the building is structurally sound.
People continue to live in temporary accommodation, more than three weeks after the first cracks were noticed in the 36-storey building.
An interim report released on Tuesday ruled out dodgy materials and extreme weather causing the large cracks on Christmas Eve.
But numerous construction and design problems were detailed, including reinforcing bars in some areas being the wrong size.
“While we have isolated the probable cause to localised structural design and construction issues, we need more information to make definitive conclusions about the cause or causes of the damage,” the report’s authors, Professors Mark Hoffman, John Carter and Stephen Foster, said.
“More work is also needed before we can provide recommendations on what needs to happen to avoid incidents like this in the future.”
They recommend independent and qualified structural engineers be contracted to check final proposals in detail before major rectification works begin.
Opal Tower body corporate chair Shady Eskander says hundreds of residents won’t consider moving back in until a comprehensive review of the building is completed.
The Fair Trading spokeswoman said if a tenant was required to temporarily move out of a property because it had been destroyed, or it was wholly or partially uninhabitable, the rent could be waived or reduced.
“Whether any rent is payable at all and, if so, the amount payable will depend on the extent of the damage and the amount of use the tenant has of the property,” she said.
“If the property is deemed safe, habitable and the tenant can move back into the property, the tenancy agreement cannot be terminated.
“Unless the landlord and tenant mutually agree to end the tenancy without penalty, the break lease fee may be applied.
“To negotiate an agreement tenants are encouraged to contact their landlord/agent in writing. If you are unable to reach an agreement, tenants or landlords/agents can access Fair Trading’s free tenancy and real estate complaint service.”
Fair Trading will contact the parties involved in an attempt to negotiate an agreement.