WA commerce minister meets with troubled home builder Nicheliving amid flood of complaints

wa commerce minister meets with troubled home builder nicheliving amid flood of complaints

Commerce Minister Sue Ellery has spoken to the CEO and director of Nicheliving about consumer complaints. (ABC News: Nicolas Perpitch)

After growing complaints from customers of Perth home builder Nicheliving that their homes are still unfinished months and years after their scheduled completion dates, Commerce Minister Sue Ellery has met with the leadership of company in an effort to get answers.

"I think it would be fair and accurate to say that Nicheliving expressed that they were feeling the pressure of the public scrutiny," Ms Ellery told Damian Smith on ABC Radio Perth.

"The purpose of the meeting was for me to understand the state of their business, the extent and the numbers of the builds that are underway, how close to completion they were, and their timelines to get that work done so that people can move into their homes.

"Some of that data they gave in the meeting, some of it they provided overnight, and there's still some more to come.

"It's my intention, once I get all of that data, that I'll compare that with the information the building commissioner holds across a variety of regulatory processes … to get some kind of oversight across the whole scheme."

Homes likely still months away

The minister acknowledged that it probably was not the response that many customers were hoping for.

"I know that it's incredibly frustrating and distressing for those people who are caught up in this, and I'm sorry that it's going to take me a little while longer to get across all of that information," she said.

"But what government wants to do is to ensure that we can get those people into their homes as quickly as possible. I'll do my best to make sure that that happens as quickly as possible."

She said indications from the company were that it would likely need another four to six months to complete homes that were at or close to the lock-up stage.

She also suggested the company needed to improve its communication with customers, with many complaining that numerous phone calls and emails have not been answered.

"It would probably help if they made some public comments themselves," she said.

"Companies make choices in how they deal with their customers and companies make choices in how many contracts they're signing up if they know they're under pressure.

"I suggest [they] have made choices about how they've dealt with their customers that have led people to be really frustrated that they haven't had regular updates."

Review of regulations flagged

Ms Ellery also responded to concerns from frustrated home builders that the time and cost to bring a complaint to the Building Commission was too onerous.

"All around the country, coming out of COVID, construction, whether it's residential or any other kind, has really struggled," she said.

"Struggled with supply, struggled with labour, and a dramatic escalation in costs.

"We didn't design our laws to take account of the after-effects of the pandemic, but there are lessons to be learned here."

Ms Ellery said the government did need to look at whether there were opportunities for greater regulation that allowed consumers faster resolutions when building projects ran into trouble.

"I think we always need to be looking at what opportunities are available to us," she said.

"There's a balance to be reached.

"If at a time that the construction industry is under enormous pressure, we also fundamentally change the rules that they're operating within, then in fact we might be pushing some of them over the edge before they should go over the edge."

Mornings with Nadia Mitsopoulos is live on ABC Radio Perth every weekday from 8:30-11am. Tune in on 720AM, digital radio or the ABC Listen app.

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