Unit owners hit with big bills to ensure blocks comply with fire rules

Strata Community Association Queensland executive officer Katrin Watson said the issue appeared to be “mainly Brisbane-based” because the city’s water pipe infrastructure had struggled to keep up with growth.

Ms Watson said she was aware of a 40-lot building that had to be retrofitted at a cost of $125,000 – or $3125 a unit.

Residents at Kangaroo Point's The Figs apartment complex are questioning increasing costs for unit owners.

Residents at Kangaroo Point’s The Figs apartment complex are questioning increasing costs for unit owners.Credit:Tony Moore

“Bodies corporate have to foot the bill for upgrading their fire safety and while it is unfortunately at significant expense, the consequences of a failure to put out a fire are far worse and should not be disregarded,” she said.

“Bodies corporate should provide for sufficient sinking funds for the upgrade of their facilities as we become more aware of systemic defects in strata buildings.”

Every 12 months, unit complexes have to supply evidence that they comply with the local authority’s “certificate of occupancy”.

To do so, fire hydrants, hydrant boosters and sprinkler systems need to be tested and the Department of Housing and Public Works’ Form 72 completed.

About a dozen unit complexes have now lodged complaints with South Brisbane MP Jackie Trad, and a meeting has been called for 1pm on Sunday at Kangaroo Point’s Story Bridge Hotel.

“If you don’t have that certificate, that Form 72, you can be uninsured,” said Terry Powell, chairman of The Figs, a six-unit complex in Kangaroo Point.

The original certificates of occupancy are signed by the local authority, in this case Brisbane City Council, or a private certifier working for the council.

Mr Powell said he received his certificate when he moved into The Figs in 2002, and he questioned why unit owners with valid certificates should bear extra costs.

A new hydrant booster recently installed by a body corporate outside a Kangaroo Point apartment complex.

A new hydrant booster recently installed by a body corporate outside a Kangaroo Point apartment complex.Credit:Tony Moore

“But because we notified our body corporate managers, they notified the insurance company and the insurance company said if you don’t get this fixed, you are uninsurable,” he said.

In Brisbane, Queensland Urban Utilities is responsible for water until it reaches a property’s boundary. Property owners are responsible for ensuring their on-site fire systems meet Queensland’s Development Code and the National Construction Code, a QUU spokeswoman said.

Mr Powell said water pressure drops by 10 kilopascals per metre when pumped up towards a roof. Fire crews need 350kPa to fight fires on rooftops, he added.

“In our pressure test, we met it by 1kPa – we got to 351kPa – and we were watching the guys run the test,” Mr Powell said. “He said that will be the last time you pass without making the modifications.”

Ms Watson, from the Strata Community Association, said every resident had a right to feel safe in their own homes, as did firefighters when they were on the job.

“Mitigating some of the risk by upgrading is a way of saying thank you to the people that risk their lives for strangers.”

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