News, Culture & Society

Spring Farm sinking homes saga: Neighbourhood divided over collapsing houses

Neighbours have gone to war over a ‘sinking suburb’ that’s left some owners with homes at risk of collapse and others with undamaged properties that are rapidly losing value thanks to highly-publicised coverage of the saga. 

A handful of houses at Spring Farm, near Camden in Sydney’s south west, are riddled with cracks and falling apart as the ground beneath them gives way, while the vast majority of properties remain unscathed.  

Homeowners with damaged properties say the way the site was filled prior to the construction stage caused the land to move and led to dangerous and costly defects. However, unaffected property owners claim it’s the builders’ fault.   

Despite most of the 3,500 homes sustaining no damage, the class action – seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages from the developers and Camden Council – is affecting all homeowners.

Dianne Markich, whose home is one of thousands not to suffer any defects, said her property has depreciated in value as a result of the controversial class action that has received significant media coverage.

‘You put your heart and soul into building a house and then a couple of people start the class action and it turns into this [her home being devalued],’ Ms Markich said told Daily Mail Australia. 

‘How are they making this a whole class action when it’s just a couple of houses? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with our house or anyone we’ve spoken to.’ 

A handful of houses at Spring Farm, near Camden in Sydney’s south west, have started falling apart and are riddled with cracks as the ground beneath them gives way

Resident Michael Markich said his house has remained undamaged as other homes are falling apart

Resident Michael Markich said his house has remained undamaged as other homes are falling apart 

A tenant on Wagner Road invited Daily Mail Australia into his buckling rental property, where entire walls had shifted out of place. Pictured: The bathroom wall

A tenant on Wagner Road invited Daily Mail Australia into his buckling rental property, where entire walls had shifted out of place. Pictured: The bathroom wall

The neighbouring property's roof had slanted down and caved in the middle

The neighbouring property’s roof had slanted down and caved in the middle

The man's neighbour's home had also suffered serious cracks in the side of its façade, causing bricks to become separated 5cm from each other

The man’s neighbour’s home had also suffered serious cracks in the side of its façade, causing bricks to become separated 5cm from each other 

Ms Markich’s husband Michael said: ‘None of us really knew about any of it until we got the letter in the mail – that’s how little a problem it is.’

The Cornish Group designed the land. 

A tenant on Wagner Road invited Daily Mail Australia into his rental property where entire walls have shifted out of place, the floors slope down, and windows and doors are unable to be opened.

The wall of the laundry has lifted about 2cm from the floor tiles, causing cracks that reach the ceiling.

‘The majority of houses here are okay but the certain ones that are affected are affected so badly,’ the tenant, who only wished to be identified as Jamie, said.

Jamie, who has received a ‘significant’ rent reduction, said he would be ‘right behind’ the class action if he owned the home. 

‘You’ve got families where it’s meant to be their forever home,’ he said. 

‘The way Australia is in regards to affordability, how are you supposed to bust your a** and pay off a 30-year mortgage and have the stress of coming home and thinking “is my house falling down today?”

‘The rich get rich and the poor get poorer.’

When Jamie moved into the three-bedroom home mid last year, cracks had already begun to show, however he says the damage has become progressively worse. 

Jamie, who received a 'significant' rent reduction, said he would be 'right behind' the class action if he owned the home. Pictured: The tiles and wall in the hallway after cracking and separating

Jamie, who received a ‘significant’ rent reduction, said he would be ‘right behind’ the class action if he owned the home. Pictured: The tiles and wall in the hallway after cracking and separating 

The wall of the laundry has lifted about 2cm from the floor tiles, causing cracks that reached the ceiling

The wall of the laundry has lifted about 2cm from the floor tiles, causing cracks that reached the ceiling

When Jamie moved into the three-bedroom home mid-last year, cracks had already begun to show, however he says the damage has gotten progressively worse. Pictured: The bathroom

When Jamie moved into the three-bedroom home mid-last year, cracks had already begun to show, however he says the damage has gotten progressively worse. Pictured: The bathroom  

Jamie said the recent heavy rain and floods 'haven't helped' with the rapidly escalating problem. Pictured: The hallway ceiling

Jamie said the recent heavy rain and floods ‘haven’t helped’ with the rapidly escalating problem. Pictured: The hallway ceiling 

‘There’s only so much you can do. You can’t just go buy Selleys Putty and fix the cracks up,’ he said.

Jamie said the recent heavy rain and floods ‘haven’t helped’ with the escalating problem.  

‘That’s when it comes down to the developers to think of something like floods and heavy rain happening,’ he said.

Tensions in the neighbourhood reached boiling point on Wednesday evening when Danny Massour, who has spent at least $40,000 in repairs on his cracking and splitting home, took to the street to share his anguish. 

Mr Massour, the lead plaintiff in the class action, said he and his wife Marielle have been heckled by locals furious that their undamaged homes have lost value due to the saga. 

‘We’re not the ones who wrote the f**king letter,’ he screamed outside his home on Wednesday evening. 

‘My wife’s calling me crying getting abused in the street. I want to crawl into a f**king hole’.

Daily Mail Australia are not suggesting that Mr and Mrs Markich have any involvement in the alleged abuse. 

Mr Massour’s brother later shared an impassioned social media plea for locals to stop ‘abusing’ the couple. 

‘To the lady that walked past and abused my brother over the situation that has been going on with the houses you are just showing why people like you don’t deserve to be a part of a community,’ he wrote.

Lead plaintiff Danny Moussa's house, which is just five years old, has already needed $40,000 worth of repairs. Pictured with wife Marielle

Lead plaintiff Danny Moussa’s house, which is just five years old, has already needed $40,000 worth of repairs. Pictured with wife Marielle

A large crack has formed on a wall outside a home in Spring Farm

A large crack has formed on a wall outside a home in Spring Farm 

Dianne Markich, whose home is one of thousands not to suffer any defects, said her property has depreciated in value as a result of the highly publicised and controversial class action

Dianne Markich, whose home is one of thousands not to suffer any defects, said her property has depreciated in value as a result of the highly publicised and controversial class action

The class action has sparked wider residents concerns about the value of unaffected homes in the Spring Farm estate

The class action has sparked wider residents concerns about the value of unaffected homes in the Spring Farm estate

‘We live in this beautiful country we all call home and can’t even spare a thought for the people that are struggling with families trying to pay off a home.

‘Yes it’s a free country, and yes you are free to speak your mind but when people start fearing for their own safety in their own community this is why I write this post.’

An elderly man, who preferred not to be identified, said he and his wife’s plans to sell their house and retire have now been thrown into limbo. 

Despite the vast majority of the 3,500 homes sustaining absolutely no damage, the class action - seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages from the developers and Camden Council - is affecting all homeowners. Pictured: A letter sent to homeowners

Despite the vast majority of the 3,500 homes sustaining absolutely no damage, the class action – seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages from the developers and Camden Council – is affecting all homeowners. Pictured: A letter sent to homeowners  

‘We were only talking about selling last week and then all this happens. I don’t know what we will do now but this could go on for years,’ he told Daily Mail Australia. 

‘It’s putting a stigma on everyone’s houses when [the majority] are fine. Why put a stick on the whole area.’

The man said his real estate agent advised him to put his home on the market as soon as possible, but he is unsure whether to ride out the storm. 

‘I think this could linger on for a while,’ he said.  

Another neighbour, who has lived in a rental property for five years, said he would avoid committing to living in the area.

‘I wouldn’t buy here because it’s not worth it, you listen to all the problems people have,’ he said.

Joyce Petkovski said that while she has sympathy for the owners whose homes have cracked, it isn’t appropriate nor fair to label the entire estate as ‘Sink Farm’. 

‘It’s not a really good thing to say when the entire Spring Farm isn’t really sinking and will deter people from buying here and affect other home owners’ property value,’ she said. 

Many homes are still being built in the suburb – which was once a combination of a quarry, a tip and a chicken farm – with much thicker and more structurally sound ‘high density’ concrete foundation slabs. 

Locals Anne and Rod Chapman, who forked out $700,000 for their home and land, said their property is unsellable after sustaining serious damage from its sinking foundations. 

Homeowners with damaged properties say the way the site was filled prior to the construction stage caused the land to move and led to dangerous and costly defects. However, unaffected property owners claim it's the builders fault.

Homeowners with damaged properties say the way the site was filled prior to the construction stage caused the land to move and led to dangerous and costly defects. However, unaffected property owners claim it’s the builders fault.

Brett Cornish, managing director of The Cornish Group, said he was only aware of a few homes that had developed problems. Camden Council told Daily Mail Australia it has 'received no formal notice of the Supreme Court class action relating to Spring Farm' and is unable to provide further comments

Brett Cornish, managing director of The Cornish Group, said he was only aware of a few homes that had developed problems. Camden Council told Daily Mail Australia it has ‘received no formal notice of the Supreme Court class action relating to Spring Farm’ and is unable to provide further comments

The house is continuing to crack and its doors are unable to close anymore, leaving their tenant with no option but to move out.

Brett Cornish, managing director of The Cornish Group, said he was only aware of a few homes that had developed problems.

The company, which is now suing Camden Council in a separate suit, had ‘not yet seen any class action and is unable to comment’.

Mr Cornish said the council ‘were the prior owners of the land and we allege they undertook substantial filling works in the relevant area’. 

Residents of a nearby home brought legal action against building company Firstyle, who then purchased the property back from the owners.

Camden Council told Daily Mail Australia it has ‘received no formal notice of the Supreme Court class action relating to Spring Farm’ and is unable to provide further comments. 

‘Council is making further enquiries with the Supreme Court to better understand the situation,’ a spokesman said.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she ‘wished [residents] well’ when asked about Spring Farm’s homeowners.

‘It would be horrific for anyone who’s invested in their family home, in their forever home, to have to find themselves in those circumstances,’ Ms Berejiklian said on Tuesday.  

  

  

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