Published by The Sydney Morning Herald
It’s a tale of two apartment buildings in Sydney, illustrating the best of times and the worst of times.
On one side of the road is Grand Reve, one of the first NSW apartment towers in more than 20 years to be given an insurance policy against building defects.
“I think they’ve been drawn by the location – Grand Reve is in a very quiet cul-de-sac yet in the heart of Castle Hill – and by the quality of the fixtures and fittings,” he says. “There’s a design integrity built-in by Turner Studio and beautiful landscaping by Arcadia Landscape Architecture as well.”
And on the other is the Toplace Group’s Skyview, which allegedly has serious defects and whose owner Jean Nassif says he is in the Philippines, despite being asked to appear at a NSW parliamentary inquiry. His daughter Ashlyn Nassif has been charged with serious fraud offences. Mr Nassif has not been charged over the alleged scheme. However, a court has received documents referring to him as a co-accused. He has vowed to fight the accusations.
NSW building commissioner David Chandler said the two Castle Hill towers reflect the choice consumers now have when buying new apartments.
“They can choose to buy an apartment from a rated builder or developer who’s been given defects insurance – or they can choose to deal with one that hasn’t won a rating and doesn’t have insurance,” he said.
Grand Reve, a two-tower, 192-apartment development from Kassis Homes founder Sam Kassis and his brother-in-law Romio Georges, is among the first five buildings under construction to be granted a new 10-year insurance policy. It comes more than two decades after home warranty insurance for NSW buildings more than three storeys high was ended in 2002.
It involves the insurer, Resilience Insurance, using experts to carry out a stringent series of checks at all stages of a building’s construction — by a developer or builder previously awarded a good score from the iCIRT star rating system — to make sure everything is done properly.
In the case of Grand Reve at Garthowen Crescent, builder Dasco has a 4.5-star rating, one of the highest given to date. The insurance becomes active on the buildings’ completion.
Kassis felt it was a game-changer for NSW apartment buyers.
“While the insurance policy was expensive at close to $3 million, and we’ve had to jump through so many hoops to get it, it gives people more certainty, and an extra level of comfort, in what they’re buying.
“The Toplace building puts a bad taste in the mouth and it’s a shame to see what’s happening, but it will heighten awareness of our building and our insurance.
“This gives people confidence, while it will also make other developers realise it’s crazy not to have insurance.”
The insurance policy is the latest coup in a series of reforms instigated by Chandler and the NSW government’s Fair Trading Minister Victor Dominello following a number of development defect horror stories, including Mascot Towers, Opal Tower, and separate concerns about flammable cladding.
Chandler said it had been hard work to reach a point where rated developers and builders were given insurance, but said it was worth all the pain.
The Toplace Group was contacted for comment about Skyview but did not respond by deadline.
For Grand Reve, the insurance was already proving a marketing advantage, with about 50 per cent of apartments sold, said Adam Sparkes, associate director of marketers McGrath Projects.
“Having the new insurance does set it apart … and gives consumers trust and confidence,” he said.
“If any unforeseen buildings defects become apparent within the 10-year period from handover, the insurance policy will rectify them in a speedy manner.”
Insurance One broker Joe Khoury said inspections of the major areas where defects are likely to arise, particularly in fire collars and waterproofing, meant any construction issues could be picked up immediately and rectified.
“The risk of any defects later occurring are greatly minimised,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback … with many buyers saying they’ve been waiting for a policy like this. It’s early days … but I think others will apply now too.”
So far, Resilience Insurance has issued five policies, and are pricing another 42 for developments. Over 220 ratings are in train through the iCIRT system.
Grand Reve co-developer Georges said buyer enquiries had increased since they started advertising the insurance.
“There has been a lot of negativity about buying apartments off the plan in Sydney, but while the insurance is an extra cost for us, it puts people’s minds at ease about buying. So this is good for us, and good for the industry.”
▲This article was written by Sue Williams and published by The Sydney Morning Herald in March 2023.
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