Nick Rehac bought his apartment last year for $1 million but is still barred from living in it. (ABC News: Jason Om)
The owners of a Sydney apartment complex locked out because of toxic land concerns look set to be barred from entering their homes until at least the end of the year.
- The Sugarcube apartments were completed in May last year, but the City of Sydney has barred owners from moving in
- The developer Golden Rain is still advertising the apartments online as “the sweet life”
- Golden Rain, which does not have a website, claims to have completed 30 projects across Asia
In what one owner described as “a disgrace”, the City of Sydney and developer Golden Rain are locked in an ongoing battle over the $46.5 million, 109-apartment “Sugarcube” development in the inner-west suburb of Erskineville.
It was revealed in July that the City of Sydney was refusing to allow owners to move in over concerns the developer has not cleaned up toxic land underneath it, despite the apartments being completed in May last year.
Two months after the revelations, the developer and the City of Sydney are still locked in the dispute with experts telling the ABC the situation is unlikely to be resolved by the end of the year.
One owner, who declined to be named, told the ABC he expected the sunset clause on his one-bedroom $715,000 apartment — which he bought off-the-plan in 2015 — to be extended past its December 31, 2019 expiry.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to settle any time soon,” he said.
It comes as the developer continues to advertise the apartments online, using the slogan “the sweet life”.
The development is promoted as offering “exceptional living” in a “truly inspirational setting”.
The website declares construction has “commenced”, despite the apartments being completed in May 2018.
Another owner, Nick Rehac, who bought his $1 million apartment last year, told the ABC he had no correspondence from the developers or the City of Sydney.
“We’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting and heard nothing,” he said.
“It’s a disgrace. People keep ringing me and asking me to do something [take legal action] but I have no money for it, nothing.”
The ABC understands some owners have engaged lawyers, however no legal action is before the courts.
According to the City of Sydney, the building was approved on strict conditions in September 2015 because the site — once an industrial area — was contaminated groundwater with heavy metals, hydrocarbons and asbestos.
It said the developer, Golden Rain, went ahead with construction without meeting all the conditions set out in a remediation plan to clean up the site.
The City provided an update to apartment owners in the development late last month.
It said it was awaiting a “detailed plan” from the developer as to how the site can be acceptably managed going forward.
It also advised residents to seek legal advice if they were “concerned about the ongoing issue”.
Golden Rain, through an advisor, told the ABC it was working on the detailed plan that required the input of “a range of stakeholders, including environmental consultants, auditors and insurers”.
The company said it did not know when the development would be given the green light for owners to move in.
“It will depend on the time it takes to reach an agreement with council as well as the time required for documentation and formal approval,” the spokesperson said.
“While we know the delays have been frustrating for our purchasers, we are taking every possible step to satisfy council’s requirements.”
Golden Rain claims to have completed 30 projects across Asia, but the Erskineville development is its only project in Sydney. The company does not have a website.
The Sugarcube apartment situation comes as NSW is in the midst of a building industry inquiry, with apartment owners in Mascot Towers and 15 owners in Opal Tower in Sydney’s Olympic park still locked out of their homes because of defects.