Building cladding inspections in Moreland
In the wake of the deadly Grenfell Tower fire, the Victorian Government appointed the Victorian Cladding Taskforce in July 2017, to undertake an investigation into suspected combustible cladding in other municipalities outside of the City of Melbourne.
This followed the Dockland’s Lacrosse Building fire in November 2014, which prompted the initial Victorian Government-led audit of buildings with suspected combustible cladding within the City of Melbourne and part of the City of Port Phillip. The results of these initial audits are not included in the Victorian Building Authority’s (VBA) latest numbers of suspect buildings across metropolitan Councils.
Moreland City Council was proactive and offered to be part of the Victorian Cladding Taskforce pilot, which included a small number of Councils, as Moreland's first priority is the safety of our community.
Council is pleased that the Minister for Planning has now declared the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) as the Municipal Building Surveyor for the high risk buildings identified in Moreland. This will ensure that a consistent state-wide approach is taken to the rectification of buildings with suspected combustible cladding.
It is important to note that approval of cladding materials and fire safety assessments form part of the building permit process. Moreland City Council did not issue any of the building permits for buildings with suspected combustible cladding; all were issued a building permit by a Private Building Surveyor, registered by the Victorian Government.
The Municipal Building Surveyor has legislated powers to take action in the event that any building is found to be unsafe. Council has been working collaboratively with the Victorian Cladding Taskforce and Victorian Building Authority (VBA) to audit buildings, in order to understand the level of risk and work towards solutions to improve the safety of these buildings.
Status of cladding audits completed
The City of Moreland has experienced the second highest level of growth in residential apartment development over the past ten to fifteen years outside of central Melbourne. This growth has coincided with the increased use of combustible cladding in Australia and internationally.
Due to Moreland's early involvement in the Victorian Cladding Taskforce Pilot Audits, Council completed its audits of suspect buildings in October 2018, ahead of other Councils. This identified buildings with risk ratings from high to low.
It is understood that audits of all the suspected buildings identified by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) are continuing across other inner city, metropolitan and regional councils and therefore numbers are expected to grow for those Councils who are yet to complete all audits.
Determining a building's level of risk
The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) has a team that reviews the findings of the audit and provides specialist advice on the safety works which need to occur.
If a building is determined to pose a life safety risk, the Municipal Building Surveyor can make an emergency order to address immediate building safety issues to prevent loss of life.
The Moreland Municipal Building Surveyor has acted on the advice of the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) and has already issued the required orders to the owners corporations or owners to undertake immediate works to reduce the fire risk to a safe level for occupation.
All the orders have been issued and the immediate safety works have been completed to address immediate public safety concerns.
Council is pleased that the Minister for Planning has now declared the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) as the Municipal Building Surveyor for the high risk buildings identified in the municipality.
Outcomes of the cladding audits
At this time, the risk levels of all audited buildings have been identified.
No audited buildings in Moreland were found to warrant evacuation, based on life safety concerns.
For those buildings which have received a high-risk rating, written advice and directions were provided to the owners corporation regarding any works which may be required.
When requested, the Moreland Municipal Building Surveyor has also met with the owners corporation committees, when requested, to provide advice and assistance on how to proceed.
The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) was appointed by the Minister for Planning as the Municipal Building Surveyor for the high risk buildings identified through auditing. Once appointed, the Victorian Building Authority has written to all owners corporations advising them of the appointment.
Victorian Building Authority (VBA) appointed as the Municipal Building Surveyor for some buildings
Between September 2018 and April 2019, the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) has written to those owners corporations of buildings for which the Victorian Building Authority has been appointed as the Municipal Building Surveyor. The Victorian Building Authority is now responsible for ensuring that suspected combustible cladding is rectified on these buildings
As of April 2019, Council’s Municipal Building Surveyor maintains responsibility for a handful of buildings. By the end of May, Moreland expects the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) to be declared responsible for these buildings.
Council will also continue to liaise with the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) and Victorian Civil Tribunal on the best means to address other moderate and low risk buildings that were identified through the auditing process.
Roles and responsibilities
The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) regulates registered builders and registered private building surveyors and plumbing practitioners in Victoria, including undertaking inspections, investigations and audits to ensure these practitioners comply with relevant legislation.
The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) is the body responsible for receiving complaints regarding breaches of building legislation and the conduct of registered building practitioners, including builders and building surveyors.
Moreland Council has no legislative ability to investigate or take action in respect to the actions of licensed building practitioners.
The Municipal Building Surveyor has the responsibility for taking immediate action to address extreme safety concerns associated with any building in the municipality under the Victorian Building Act.
Advice for apartment purchasers
Potential apartment purchasers should thoroughly review Section 32 statements for any information that may be available about combustible cladding.
This may include:
- A building notice asking the owners to show cause why they should not replace combustible cladding.
- A building order instructing owners to carry out building work to replace combustible cladding.
- A letter from the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) to the owners corporation manager with recommendations to reduce the safety risks of the building.
Apartment purchasers are also encouraged to seek up-to-date owners corporation certificates from the owners corporation manager to ensure they have the most recent information available.
Purchasers can also contact the owners corporation manager, the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) or Council to find out if the building has been audited.
Moreland residents with a question relating to their property can contact Council on 9240 1111.