The planned sale of a multi-million dollar Kingston mixed use building has been abandoned and the buyer and seller could be headed to the Supreme Court, in a dispute over allegations of building code violations.
The sale of the property at 72 Printers Way, an office and residential development built just six years ago, fell through on Friday last week during settlement talks.
John Bath, who was planning to buy the property as an investment, had signed contracts to do so, but pulled out after getting further building inspections done.
A assessor report Mr Bath sought showed more than 50 alleged failures to meet the building code, ranging from improperly installed windows and poor tiling and plumbing work leading to collapsing ceilings, to the footings being built over the boundary.
But, Mr Bath said, the ACT Planning and Land Authority allowed it to be built and occupied despite the alleged failures, without a certificate of occupancy for up to six years.
He said a certificate of occupancy was only issued last Tuesday, which the authority then rescinded two days later after he raised concerns, before the government then issued a new conditional certificate on Friday.
Mr Bath pulled out of the purchase as he believes the new conditional certificate did not meet the terms of the contract he originally signed.
The current owners, Ashmay Pty Ltd, are now understood to be considering their options to sue Mr Bath for rescinding the contract, with a large deposit Mr Bath paid now being held in trust by the ACT Supreme Court, pending a decision from the current owners.
It is not suggested that Ashmay were attempting to mislead Mr Bath in the course of the sale in respect of the alleged defects.
It is the latest in a string of cases that have led to the courts over failures in the territory's building industry, and comes as the ACT government faces an inquiry into widespread problems in the Legislative Assembly.
The inquiry has been inundated with Canberrans' stories of how the construction industry and its regulators, have failed to ensure the quality of the city's built environment in the past decade.
While there have been previous inquiries into such problems in the ACT, the territory government has only announced a series of new initiatives in the past 12 months to try to improve the ailing regulatory system.
Mr Bath went public as he believes the alleged failures sit mostly at the feet of the territory government, given he believes the original certifier acted on behalf of the developer, rather than the public interest.
He said the situation he faced as a buyer in Canberra meant the authority's certificates were not worth the paper they were written on.
While Access Canberra, which regulates the building code, said it was investigating the issues, neither it nor the authority would comment on the recent certificates that Mr Bath said had been issued, rescinded and then re-issued.
The building regulator also would not comment on the specific nature of its investigation into the matter.
The alleged failures in building the foundations over the boundary of the Kingston property have forced the current owners to undertake rectification works in the meantime, and could hinder any future plans to develop the neighbouring property.
But a consulting engineer Mr Bath hired has found those works, which allegedly included using a rock hammer to excavate the foundations, which Mr Bath damaged the footings believes may have further jeopardised the structural integrity of the building.
He said the rectification work had left about 30 metres of the foundations and steel reinforcement within exposed to the elements, which he had been told could lead to further problems in the future.
It is unclear whether the matter will end up in the courts.
An article published on May 29 under the headline "Kingston building failures stymie sale" stated that the current owner of the property was United Legal. This is not the case. A title search shows that the property is owned by Ashmay Pty Ltd. United Legal partner Peter Glover is not an owner of Ashmay Pty Ltd.