Alpine Projects Australia collapses into liquidation owing millions, leaving apartment owners in limbo

Owners of apartments in a defective Sydney building have been left in limbo following the collapse of the block’s builder and developer, Alpine Projects Australia.

Rachel Fong-Sim, in her early 30s, owns an apartment in a Campsie building in the city’s southwest, where she lives with her husband.

Alpine Projects Australia collapsed into liquidation on September 19 costing all 26 employees their jobs and with debts that “look to be in the millions”, according to liquidator Mohammad Najjar of Vanguard Insolvency.

Ms Fong-Sim told news.com.au that after receiving a clean building and strata bill of health when they bought their three bedroom apartment for $685,000 in 2019, problems started to emerge in the 58 unit complex a year later which “the owners corporation has had to fork out large amounts of money” to fix.

In 2020, the building failed its annual fire safety check but as it was only completed in 2018 the building was still under warranty, meaning the faults would need to be fixed – and paid for – by the builder.

In NSW, a statutory warranty period of six years for major defects and two years for other defects from the date of completion applies.

Ms Fong-Sim, who is on the strata committee, said that after approaches to Alpine were ignored, the committee hired a surveyor to document the defects at its own cost.

The surveyor found that the building’s fire alarms were not loud enough, that fire tags had been painted over and that exit signs and signs displaying emergency evacuation routes had not been installed.

Additionally, waterproofing issues with some apartments in the block also emerged at the same time.

Know more about this story? | michelle.bowes@news.com.au

Alpine was approached to rectify the defects but Ms Fong-Sim told news.com.au: “It went on for two years and they didn’t fix anything.”

She said the situation with the building’s fire safety became so bad that the local council, the City of Canterbury-Bankstown, threatened to issue a fire order, which would have meant the building was deemed unlivable and all residents would have been forced to move out.

False fire alarms were also frequently triggered at a further cost to the strata committee, as NSW fire services only allows one false alarm in a 60 day period before charging $1600 per call out for subsequent false alarms.

With its requests to Alpine being ignored, earlier this year “we started thinking about the lawyers,” Ms Fong-Sim said.

However the situation then took another ugly turn with a standoff between owner occupiers and investors in the building.

Most owner occupiers – who make up 60 per cent of the owners – were in favour of taking legal action while the majority of investor owners were against it, she said.

After passing by a margin of one vote, lawyers were engaged by the strata company and “the next week [Alpine] literally sent out these contractors to fix the fire alarm stuff”.

However, when Alpine collapsed into liquidation, they had failed to pay at least one of the contractors.

Ms Fong-Sim said this contractor is owed $40,000 and has “threatened to come in and remove all the fixtures he’s put in”.

Ms Fong-Sim said the owners are now waiting to see if the building will pass its fire inspection.

She added that they have not heard anything from Mr Najjar and it is not clear whether fixing the remaining defects will be covered by insurance.

In NSW, if a builder is unable to complete building work or fix defects during the warranty period due to insolvency, the NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority will cover the cost of fixing defects providing the builder had mandatory home building compensation cover.

News.com.au has contacted Mr Najjar for comment.

Mr Najjar previously told news.com.au that contractors and trades were among “a large amount of creditors” and that employees had also been left out of pocket.

Alpine Projects Australia, which also trades as Alpine Designer Projects, is a sister company to Lane Cove-based Allura Homes, which news.com.au revealed had fallen into liquidation in July.

Know more about this story? | michelle.bowes@news.com.au

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