28 March 2022

Building company refutes claims it ripped off South Coast customers after licence cancelled

| Max O'Driscoll
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Bulldozer and dump truck and tip

Atomic 6 provided moveable dwellings for upwards of nine homes ravaged by the Black Summer bushfires. They’ve now lost their building licence following a “spate of serious complaints” against them. Photo: Bega Valley Shire Council.

South Coast homeowners with houses ravaged by the devastating Black Summer bushfires have been “ripped off by dodgy or incomplete work” by building company Atomic 6, according to NSW Fair Trading. However, Atomic 6 director Andrew Lennox has refuted the claims outright.

A Bega Valley Shire Council representative explained that Atomic 6 approached the council for approval to erect moveable dwellings for bushfire-impacted residents. The company was issued with certificates as these dwellings do not require development consent and, once erected, do not require building inspections.

NSW Fair Trading Minister Eleni Petinos confirmed that Fair Trading had immediately cancelled Atomic 6’s contract licence following a “spate of serious complaints” against the company and Mr Lennox. Ms Petinos warned that NSW residents should not “deal with this company or Mr Lennox under any circumstance.”

NSW Fair Trading launched their investigation after numerous South Coast consumers reported making payments to Atomic 6 for contracted work that had either not been completed, been completed below-standard or were non-compliant.

“In one case the construction was so poor that the local council issued a demolition order on the dwelling,” Ms Petinos said.

“Another case saw a couple pay Atomic 6 a deposit plus additional payments over a 10-month period only to have minimal works carried out.

“Instead of doing what he was paid to do and building peoples’ homes, there is evidence that Mr Lennox was using money paid by customers for personal expenses.”

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The license cancellation means that Atomic 6 cannot advertise, contract or conduct any residential building work requiring a licence in NSW.

In a post made to the company website, Mr Lennox described the claims that led to his licence cancellation as “over-stated and very disappointing”. He added that the company would “continue to work with homeowners to resolve any outstanding matters”.

“The licence they mention is for non-factory builds, which is not our market. This is factual and confirmed by the legal department of the MBA-NSW. This was clearly illustrated to Fair Trade, however, the recent release fails to clarify this, nor explains that this is the only method that we build,” Mr Lennox wrote.

“Out of respect to our clients, three weeks ago we offered everyone the choice to continue, or to have refunds. We are committed to supporting those who want help, happy to release those who do not or who are concerned, but it is their choice and we are respectful of this.

“The claim of demolition orders and that inclusion speaks to the misguided nature of the release. To this date, Atomic 6 has not been informed of any such order. If there is, we will rectify whatever needs to be addressed. Bega council have confirmed that no order exists.”

He took particular issue with the claim that client money was used for personal expenses. The Fair Trading investigation alleged that Mr Lennox used $34,950 over 37 transactions for personal expenses from June 2020 to May 2021.

“I do not take a salary from the company. During this period I slept on a blow-up mattress in the factory for three months to save every dollar possible. This $34,950 are drawings (the equivalent of a director’s wage). This means an income of $34,950 over 10 months / 304 days working 80 hour weeks! This equates to $9.90 per hour,” Mr Lennox said.

“The statement makes out that huge sums of money were stolen from the client which could not be further from the truth.

“So many people and businesses have come to these regions with the promise of help then soon disappear, just as the government did. We are still here, still working through all the impossible hurdles that continuously present.”

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Bega Valley Shire Council are aware of nine families in the Bega Valley who have been affected, according to their community, environment and planning director Dr Alice Howe.

“This is obviously a significant concern for the families that have engaged Atomic 6 and is compounding their existing trauma,” Dr Howe said.

“Council’s Recovery Support Service and Building Compliance teams are working closely with affected families that are currently engaged with us and invites those not currently receiving Council support to access our services.

“We are also working with Resilience NSW and our local social service organisations to identify appropriate supports for the families’ living circumstances in the short and longer-term.”

Mayor of the Eurobodalla Shire Council, Mathew Hatcher, said that the council’s bushfire recovery support service is aware of several families in the Eurobodalla impacted by Atomic 6.

“My understanding is Fair Trading has spoken to the local people impacted to advise them this was coming, and with Resilience NSW is supporting them through next steps,” Mayor Hatcher said.

“Hopefully everyone involved has been contacted, but if not, please get in touch with NSW Fair Trading.”

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