Opal Tower residents paying rent for wreckage
LANDLORDS who own units at the defective Opal Tower are still charging residents hundreds of dollars in rent and refusing to let them cancel their leases.
The Daily Telegraph has obtained copies of an email sent to one tenant from their property manager stating they will not terminate his lease as requested because the building has not been declared uninhabitable.
The newly built tower in Sydney Olympic Park was evacuated on Christmas Eve after cracks were found in the building.
The rental revelations come as residents claim they have had their apartments "torn apart" by builder Icon's investigators, damaging their belongings.
Icon has undertaken "investigative work" in at least 29 units and installed "propping" in another 15.
Photos from inside the units taken by residents who went back to collect their belongings reveal walls cracked open, carpet ripped up and ceilings torn away.
One owner, who asked not to be named, told The Daily Telegraph that he had only discovered his wall had been cut open when he returned home to check on the unit.
"I think they cut it to check the structure," he said. "I don't think the communication is good at all. We can only get the latest news from the media."
Tenant Ehsan Jahananbish said that he was being made to pay "around $600" a week in rent, despite being unable to live in his apartment.
He contacted his agent on January 3, but was told his landlord refused to budge.
"The landlord does not agree with the reduction or termination of the rent," he said. "I cannot continue to pay rent when I'm not getting use out of the unit."
Another tenant Johnson Kim said that he was still forking out rent money while living in a hotel.
"I am still paying rent," he said. "They said they will reimburse me."
Information published by Fair Trading on Opal Tower states is if the property is uninhabitable the tenancy can issue a termination notice.
Tenants' Union Leo Patterson Ross said it was important to note that while tenants were being given alternative accommodation this was being provided by the builder rather than the landlord.
He said tenants should be given a rent reduction, given that the accommodation they were in would not contain the same facilities as their units.
It has now passed the original 10-day deadline residents were given as a return date for their apartments, with builder Icon extending alternative accommodation until Friday January 11.
Last week early findings from an independent investigation into the fiasco by the NSW Government found there were design and construction issues with the building.
Meanwhile the Victorian government is reviewing all building permits which name Icon Construction.
When asked whether the NSW Government would conduct a similar probe on other Icon buildings in NSW, a spokesman for Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said they were waiting for the advice of their independent investigation.