The ACT government will put a spotlight on builders and contractors who have been subjected to disciplinary action, as it urges Canberrans to shun poor quality developments.
The move would draw greater public scrutiny to some of the biggest players in the ACT's property industry, including developer Geocon and the Bulum Group.
Access Canberra deputy director-general Dave Peffer this week told an Owners Corporation Network forum that the regulator was adopting a "far more aggressive approach" to investigating building non-compliance.
He also revealed that a pre-Christmas audit blitz, which began in October, had already uncovered defects in documentation in a third of newly built properties where a certificate of occupancy had been issued.
And he said Access Canberra was also investigating an unnamed Canberra developer after the ACT Fair Trading Commissioner raised concerns about its "aggressive marketing tactics".
But Mr Peffer conceded the regulator remained in the dark about the scale of building quality problems, largely because it relied on consumer complaints to begin investigations.
The regulator has received 102 complaints about strata developments, which cover apartment buildings, since July.
But Mr Peffer said that probably underestimated the extent of the problem because owners were reluctant to come forward.
Owners were worried their property values would plummet if defects were made public. Some were also reluctant to come forward because of "non-disclosure" clauses inserted into sale contracts, he said.
Mr Peffer told the forum that Access Canberra wanted to improve buyers' understanding of the industry, including raising awareness about the track records of construction companies working in the ACT.
Access Canberra would soon start actively marketing its disciplinary register, a publicly accessible, but little known, online database of registered companies which have been hit with sanctions in the past 10 years, including rectification orders and suspension and cancellation of licences.
A total of 78 builders, plumbers and electricians are listed on the register, including companies linked to some of the biggest names in the ACT's construction industry.
Geocon managing director Nick Georgalis was listed on the disciplinary register after Geocon Constructions Pty Ltd was ordered to do rectification work on a development in 2012.
Five companies listed on the register are part of the Bulum Group.
The sanctions are applied to the listed company, not the licensee, meaning the individuals are able to establish new companies and continue working under different names.
Mr Peffer told the forum that creating a "more educated buyer base" could improve the quality of new developments in the ACT.
"For us as a regulator, this is perhaps one of our most important tools for addressing poor quality buildings," he said.
"A good economic lever to stop poor quality builders is for people to stop buying what they are building. If you are thinking about using a particular builder, I would encourage all of you to avail yourself of that resource."
About 80 people attended Monday night's forum at Federal Golf Club, which also heard from senior ACT environment, planning and sustainable development directorate officials Vanessa Morris and Alex Knockels.
During an at-times tense meeting, audience members spoke of their experiences dealing with defects in their apartments, and their frustration at what they see as a lack of regulation in the territory's building industry.
Owners Corporation Network president Gary Petherbridge said encouraging developers to have their plans "peer-reviewed" before construction started could lead to better outcomes for all parties.
"In that way, the buyer gets a better result, the developer gets a better profit because he doesn't get tangled up in all sorts of disputes," Mr Petherbridge said.
The forum comes as the ACT Assembly is inquiring into building quality in the territory.
The committee overseeing the inquiry recieved 63 submissions before last Friday's deadline, including from industry groups, owners' corporations, residents' groups and individual owners.
The submissions have highlighted wide-ranging concerns about regulation, and included numerous first-hand accounts of extensive defects in new apartments, construction delays and owners being left thousands of dollars out of pocket.
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