Black mould from leaky balcony in nose swab


Hidden defects aren’t just about feeling cheated when you buy a new apartment, they could have serious consequences for your health, as SUE WILLIAMS discovered in this story for Domain.

When Zoe Foster visited her doctor for a routine COVID-19 test, the doctor regarded her swab with horror. “Your nose is black inside!” she exclaimed. “It looks like … mould spores.”

Ms Foster, 37, was, in turn, aghast. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “But I knew exactly what it must be. I’d had so many problems in my new apartment, including leaking balcony doors and water running down the balcony walls from upstairs.

“There was mould on the walls and, when I’d torn up the carpet, the underlay was covered in black mould. And now I realised it must also be affecting my health, especially with the lockdowns in Melbourne when I’d been confined to the apartment.”

Now Ms Foster is calling on the Victorian Government to appoint an independent building commissioner, along the lines of the one in NSW, to assess defects in apartment buildings.  She’s being joined by Australian Apartment Advocacy CEO Sam Reece who’s lobbying for more protection for apartment buyers.

The flooded balcony

“This was my first home but it’s become a nightmare,” said Ms Foster, who works as an executive assistant in commercial property firm Cushman & Wakefield, and whose father is a builder and mother worked in real estate.

She purchased her two-bedroom unit in the 253-unit Atria Apartments in Hawthorn in April last year for $672,000. When getting up one morning, however, she noticed the bed socks she was wearing were sodden, and discovered water from the balcony was leaking into her bedroom.

“I’m well-informed about real estate and I did everything I could to make sure there were no problems, but the system let me down.”

The Section 32 document for the apartment – which in Victoria is the compulsory vendor statement about a property that enables an agent to market a home – was absolutely blank. There was no indication there were any problems, nor were there mention of any issues in the strata minutes.

“We need to make sure that the Government clamps down on people not keeping proper records,” said Ms Reece.”

After a number of complaints to the builder ProBuild, the faulty balcony was fixed, the black mould was removed by men in hazmat suits, and a temporary repair was done to the part of the balcony where water was running down the walls outside from the apartment upstairs. An email from ProBuild said, ‘We recognise this is not the ultimate fix.’

A lawyer for the building, Richelle Berman of R Berman Lawyers said, “The Owners Corporation is going to be pursuing ProBuild for the common property defects in VCAT [the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal] and will also be doing everything to assist its members in relation to their private defects.”

ProBuild didn’t return Domain’s calls. You can read the full story here.

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