Pressure grows on embattled Perth builder Nicheliving

Well known Western Australian home builder Nicheliving is coming under increased government and public scrutiny as complaints pile up and customers consider a class action lawsuit.

Empty home building site
Many Nicheliving customers complain of waiting years for any progress on their new home builds. (Image source:

Pressure is growing on prominent but embattled Perth home builder Nicheliving, with revelations from the State Government that 73 complaints have been made about the company since 2022.

Of 47 that were actioned, Commerce Minister Sue Ellery revealed the Building Commissioner had referred 28 of those had been referred to the State Administrative Tribunal. Another 26 were being considered by Building and Energy or have been scheduled for conciliation, while a handful of others were withdrawn or refused.

The hundreds of homeowners waiting for as long as three years, or more in some cases, for work to progress on their new homes have been publicly vocal about their growing debt levels, inability to find alternative accommodation in Perth’s abysmal rental market and lack of communication about their stalled projects.

WA Premier Roger Cook on Tuesday (9 July) told unhappy Nicheliving customers he shares their frustration and feels their anger.

“Niche need to find another partner to make sure we complete those homes or they need to rely upon the housing indemnity insurance arrangements, which means that someone else will be brought in to complete those homes.”

When Niche client Lauren Reed told the Premier her build had been untouched for 13 months and asked for a commitment she would not still be homeless and couch-surfing a year from now, Roger Cook said he felt her anger.

“I think you should be angry.” Mr Cook said during a radio interview.

 “I think we’re all really angry about the situation that Nicheliving has found themselves in and we are working with them on a daily basis to try to resolve their issues,” he said.

Ms Reed also told the Premier her build began around the same time as NicheLiving’s director, Ronnie Michel-Elhaj, began building his own luxury home in Applecross.

She said she drove past his build on Saturday.

“His mansion in Applecross had trades at it and it started around the same time as mine and it’s almost at lock up.” Ms Reed said.

“I can understand that adds insult to injury.” Mr Cook said.

The Premier also confirmed the government is still waiting on the builder to provide information it requested at an emergency meeting with the company more than three weeks ago.

“That’s frustrating us as well.” Mr Cook said.

“But we need to make sure that we get those homes built.”

“Our focus is on making sure that those people who put their faith in Niche Living actually get their homes delivered.”

Class action lawsuit being considered

API Magazine on Saturday (6 July) received an email with the subject line, ‘Are you a Nicheliving victim?’ in which the sender seeks contact from disgruntled customers interested in pursuing a class action lawsuit.

After the success of our Nicheliving issues being tabled in WA Parliament and the media coverage generated since, now is the time for us to come together to gather the necessary information we need to rebut Mr Ronnie Michel-Elhajs incorrect facts, provide data to the relevant authorities to encourage a Nicheliving investigation and seek expressions of support for a potential class action, the email read.

Involvement from everyone who has built a home or is in the process of building a home with Nicheliving is crucial as we work towards holding Nicheliving accountable and ensuring justice for all affected parties.

Let us unite, share our experiences and compile the evidence needed to strengthen our case (and) together, we can make a significant impact and pave the way for a resolution to this ongoing issue.

Minister Ellery met with Nicheliving management several weeks ago in a bid to ascertain the company’s capability to address the backlog.

“Following my meeting with senior management at Nicheliving, my office has requested more information from the company, which we are still waiting for,” she said in a statement.

“This includes data on the status of projects they have underway.”

Speaking under parliamentary privilege, WA Nationals leader and leader of the State Opposition, Shane Love, described the ongoing saga as “an unfolding disaster”.

“This isn’t one or two people, there are hundreds,” Mr Love said.

“What we had today was a response to that problem which failed to address any of the concerns of the customers or a plan to address this issue with industry.”

He also said there were also allegations the company had not been paying employees superannuation, denying salespeople their commissions and had not taken out Home Indemnity Insurance.

Customers have been forced to meet costs they frequently describe as overwhelming as they try to meet rent, mortgage, rates and other additional bills in their alternative accommodation.

Others, perhaps less fortunate, have been forced to couch-surf or impose upon relatives to put a roof over their head.

In one of its rare media announcements, Nicheliving said it would “continue working through the difficult challenges in the market and is committed to delivering all contracted builds, including those at loss-making prices.”

Nicheliving’s woes are not uncommon among building companies nationally. A string of east coast builders and home makers have recently gone into administration or are on the verge of formal collapse.

During the nine-month period from 1 July 2023 to 31 March 2024 a staggering 2,142 construction companies entered external administration, the most of any industry sector.

The greenshoots in the industry suggesting building costs are easing or stabilising, and home approvals inching upwards and recovering particularly strongly in Western Australia, come late for Nicheliving and will provide little solace to their customers.

The recent demise of Collier Homes has spooked many customers who fear the worst, having seen that large and reputable builders are not immune to lapsing into liquidation.

There was, however, some better news for Western Australians looking to buy their first home.

The Government on Thursday (4 July) announced changes to Keystart’s property price and income limits.

This article was originally published on 5 July and updated on 6 and 10 July to reflect new developments

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