Opal Tower residents told of six-week wait to go home
Some residents of Sydney’s damaged Opal Tower are facing up to six more weeks living in a hotel before they find out if their apartment is safe after the builder revealed it needed more time to assess the damage.
It comes as other residents say they have been left out of pocket after paying for alternative accommodation despite the builder providing a stipend and hotel accommodation.
- No residents have moved back to Opal Tower while independent engineers assess the building
- Cost of living in alternative accommodation is leaving some residents out of pocket
- Friday will be the earliest residents can move back in, with experts expected to provide an update
About 300 people were evacuated from Opal Tower in Sydney’s Olympic Park after a loud cracking sound was heard on December 24, and a large crack appeared on the 10th floor.
The majority of residents are expected to learn whether they can move back in on Friday.
But some living in the worst-affected apartments have already been told by the builder, Icon Co, they will have to wait much longer before they can go home.
Nika Khodjasteh, 27, was living with her boyfriend and flatmate in a third-floor apartment.
She has been told it will be four to six weeks before she can move back in.
“My assumption is they’ll keep us in the hotel or put us in the serviced apartment, but I actually have a cat,” Ms Khodjasteh said.
“[Builder] Icon is now working with me to provide solutions. And they are being quite flexible, but you know under the circumstances this should have never occurred.”
Most residents have been put up in Sydney hotels while engineers assess the damage, and one section of the building has been braced with huge metal jacks to provide structural support.
The ABC understands some residents are being paid around $300 per night in compensation for being forced to move out of a two-bedroom apartment in the complex.
Residents are also reportedly being given $100 per person per day for the cost of food, as not all alternative accommodation has kitchens.
A photo of support struts inside Opal Tower in Sydney’s Homebush, posted on social media. (Facebook: Nika Khodjasteh)
‘Some people haven’t received money’
Ehsan Jahanandish was originally provided temporary accommodation at a nearby hotel.
But with no end to the ordeal in site, he has now found his own Airbnb to stay in.
Ehsan Jahanandish’s apartment is being investigated for structural faults. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)
“The reimbursement form that we submitted, they haven’t been paying them in full, and I know some people, they haven’t received any money at all,” he said.
“But for us, we have been receiving some money to recover expenses.”
Investigations are today taking place in his level 25 apartment, where workers plan to tear open a section of his wall and roof to take a look at the concrete behind.
Mr Jahanandish said he was unsure if he wanted to move back to the tower.
“We are putting our lives in this building, so we are going to live here, sleep here, and we are going to have to make sure that we feel safe and comfortable,” he said
He has been told he can move back into the tower on Friday, but he does not believe the timeline.
“It’s been devastating, it’s been very, very difficult … we are anxious and we are stressed, and we have to start working again.”
Newlyweds forced out of home
Resident Farzad Rezvani, 35, also moved into Airbnb accommodation after being forced out on Christmas Eve.
The mechanical engineer married just two months ago and had moved into Opal Tower with his wife.
“It’s kind of a sad feeling,” Mr Rezvani said.
“This unit was our first unit with my wife … so we are kind of attached to this one where we started our married life.”
Mr Rezvani said he had trouble contacting the builder to get access to the property to recover their things.
“When I called no-one was picking up, but when I got here the lady in the reception she was friendly and she said it was OK and gave us access to our unit.”
A number of renters are concerned they are still being charged rent while they are unable to live in the tower.
Mr Rezvani said the payments had ceased about five days ago. He said he had been told a stipend would be paid until January 7.
A spokeswoman for Icon Co said a large number of residents had been able to access the building, and a contact email and phone number would be answered by a dedicated team.
She said Icon Co had advised residents on Friday it would pay accommodation costs of displaced residents until January 11, when professors Mark Hoffman and John Carter are expected to make a further statement on the building’s integrity.
Jacks were installed as a redundancy measure to ensure structural integrity, she said.
Planning Minister Andrew Roberts issued a statement on Friday last week saying Professor Hoffman and Professor Carter, two independent experts brought in by the NSW Government to review the situation, would need more time to complete their work.
The statement said they did not find evidence of issues with the foundations of the building, but believed there were a number of design and construction issues that required further investigation.
The 392-apartment block only opened in 2018.
It sparked a pledge by the NSW Government to crack down on the construction industry, with Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean saying he will “throw the book” at building certifiers who have done the wrong thing.
The Government said it would audit 25 to 30 per cent of certification work audited every year.
Residents have posted photos of their possessions piled on the floor at Opal Tower. (Facebook: Nika Khodjasteh)