Owners of the Belle Apartments in Bruce are still living with extensive building defects more than three years after a rectification order was issued, which they say the ACT government is doing little to enforce.
Victory Homes Pty Ltd was served a rectification order on March 22, 2019 after Access Canberra inspectors found a series of issues affecting more than 50 of the 120 units in the complex.
Among the defects identified - which have left at least one unit uninhabitable - were cracks to the building facade, water entering the building, corrosion to balcony beams and cracked planter boxes.
In July 2022, building approval was granted giving the builder five months to complete all rectification work, including securing relevant building certification.
However virtually no work has commenced on fixing the homes, leaving owners doubtful the extensive works will be completed by the mid-December deadline.
Deniss Cirulis, an owner and member of the executive committee at Belle Apartments, said after years of broken promises from Victory Homes, residents had lost trust in the builder's commitment to fix the problems.
"Every time we get a glimpse of hope from [the builder] or a commitment to get something done and a time frame to get it done by, it is broken," he said.
"If they were actually genuine and keen in their effort to fix the defects they could have and should have done it years ago, there was no reason to delay the process."
Victory Homes director Martin Crncevic did not respond to questions from The Canberra Times.
Mr Cirulis said the defects had caused widespread issues for those who own or rent in the complex.
Some residents have moved out of the apartments due to mould and water damage, while others have struggled to sell or renovate their properties.
One unit is currently sitting empty after the last tenants vacated, with construction materials left in the courtyard.
"Because it's been dragging on for so long, it has started affecting some people physically and mentally," Mr Cirulis said.
Peter Leary of Peak Consulting was appointed superintendent to oversee the work on behalf of the owners corporation.
He confirmed a "very small quantity of work" had been completed at the apartment complex so far.
"This involves the rectification of some of the defective planter boxes, yet no work has actually commenced on rectifying the water penetration into the habitable units," Mr Leary said.
At time of publishing, Victory Homes had not provided a program of works, which was required within 28 days of the builder receiving the rectification order in 2019.
With the rectification order's deadline looming, Mr Leary is not confident the extensive rectification works will be completed in time.
"Work of this nature is slow and highly detailed," he said.
"Given the small quantity of relatively simple work which has been completed, comparatively to the overall and more highly detailed scope, and having not yet received a program of works, I am of the opinion that the rectifications will not be completed by the December deadline."
Access Canberra would not comment on the matter of Belle Apartments due to it being an ongoing matter.
However in an email sent to Victory Homes in August 2022 seen by The Canberra Times, an Access Canberra investigator said the builder's "actions to avoid responsibility is self-evident".
"The extensive delays over a five-year period for the Belle Apartments is inexcusable," the email read.
The investigator detailed repeated delays by Victory Homes including failing to honour an agreement to rectify defects in 2018 and a failed attempt to overturn the 2019 rectification order.
In their email, the Access Canberra investigator said prosecution could be considered if Victory Homes did not demonstrate a commitment to rectifying the defects as a priority.
In the ACT, a builder can be prosecuted for intentionally failing to comply with a rectification order.
It carries maximum penalties of $320,000 for an individual and $1,620,000 for a company.
Action can also be taken against a builder's licence if they do not comply with a rectification order.
Jose Alejandro Ruiz, another unit owner and executive committee member, said the residents and owners of the embattled apartment block simply want the builder to fix their homes.
"All we want is for him to fix the problem and follow the ACT government's order," he said.
Mr Cirulis said the executive committee has made multiple attempts to alert Access Canberra of the builder's lack of progress.
"All these years Access Canberra have lacked action, they've lacked oversight and care and the [executive committee] could never understand why Access Canberra has been so reluctant to force the builder into action, enforce a penalty or be more firm when they're the ones who hold the power to fix the problem," he said.
The executive committee has also asked Access Canberra to appoint a different builder to complete the works.
"We still believe this is an option if approved by the Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, but we're yet to hear anything about that," Mr Cirulis said.
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