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Jimmy Thomson

How to check if your apartment developer is telling fibs

NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler’s ratings are so valuable that some companies are falsely saying they’ve got them when they haven’t even been tested.

Jimmy ThomsonContributor

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but then they also say that flattery will get you nowhere.

We recently attended the first viewing of our new off-the-plan apartment where we were plied with coffee, sandwiches, cakes and something that fell between out-and-out fakery and accidental misinformation.

iCirt ratings have become much sought after, but check they have really been done. 

“Did you know this development has received a five-star iCirt rating from the [NSW] building commissioner?” the chap hired by the developer to welcome us to the new block said.

“Really?” we said. “That’s amazing!”

“Yes, David Chandler came through the other day and gave us a big tick.”


“Wow!” I replied. “I know David so I’ll ask him what he thought of the development.


“Actually, it wasn’t Mr Chandler. It was his team … yeah …Matthew Press, I think?”

I told him I also know Matt Press. Silence.

Okay, so what are iCirt star ratings and why would anyone falsely claim them? Simply put, iCirt stars are intended to reassure us about the reliability of developers, especially of off-the-plan properties.

The NSW Building Commissioners’ website lists the criteria for measurement as capability, conduct, character, capacity, capital and counterparties.


Clearly, whoever wrote this guide would never let information get in the way of alliteration, so what do they actually mean?

“Each criteria (sic) has several sub-criteria that measure the transparency, trustworthiness, experience, track record, financial stability and regulatory compliance of the builder or developer,” the website goes on to say.

“The rating system ranges from 0 to 5 stars and only parties with three or more gold stars are included on the iCIRT register.”

In other words, if your developer isn’t on the registry, they either didn’t get the three stars or they chose not to submit themselves for detailed scrutiny.

The claim that our new investment had a five-star rating set a couple of alarm bells ringing.

We’d been told that the developer had decided not to apply for an iCirt rating because, it said, its local reputation was good.


Also, there are only a couple of developers who’ve acquired the full five-star rating and our lot wasn’t one of them. So we checked the registry. There was no mention of the developer.

Then we called the Building Commissioner’s office. Had they assessed this developer? Nope. Nothing.

We called the developer. “Oh, they must have got confused between the iCirt rating and the certificate of occupancy.”

Really? If the genial host knew the names of two of the top people in the arena, how come he didn’t know the difference between an iCirt rating and an occupancy certificate?

And why would this information be offered, unprompted, when it was demonstrably not true? Maybe they didn’t think anyone would even know how to check.

For Commissioner Chandler, this is good news and bad. First, the iCirt rating clearly has currency out there. Developers really want those stars.


But alarmingly, it seems some are claiming awards that they haven’t earned, hoping that the people they are lying to don’t know any better.

You can check to see if your developer has achieved a star rating by going to the registry website. And while you’re there, you can buy a detailed report from upwards of $1750 (plus GST), depending on how much information you need.

Meanwhile, I wonder how Chandler feels about all his sterling efforts to restore confidence in the sector being undermined, not only by false claims of iCirt approval but also by Fair Trading’s failure to curb the much more common embedded network rip-offs. No gold stars for that effort.

Flat Chat, Flat Chat Wrap podcast.

Jimmy Thomson edits the strata living advice website and hosts the Flat Chat Wrap podcast. Email Jimmy at

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