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13 Jan 2020

Certifier accused of letting people live in tower whilst it's 'still a building site'

Certifier accused of letting people live in tower whilst it's 'still a building site'
The Atmosphere towers at Castle Hill. A private certifier has been accused of allowing residents to move in while they were still a building site

A prolific building certifier is in a fight to save his career over various allegations that he allowed people to move into two Sydney apartment towers while it was still a building site. 

Valerio "Vic" Lilli is challenging the Building Professionals Board's decision to reprimand him and strip him of all his accreditation for the last five years for signing off on The Atmosphere Buildings at Castle Hill.

Developer Toplace invested $86 million into the project, which has since seen the construction of 378 apartments spread across two tower buildings which is directly opposite the neighboring Castle Towers shopping center.

Toplace is headed by the colorful and often outspoken property developer Jean Nassif, who became an internet sensation over a video in which he is heard to say, "Congratulations Ms Nassif. You like?" as he gifts his wife a pretentious yellow Lamborghini. Toplace and Mr Nassif have since not been accused of any wrongdoing over the matter.

The Building Professionals Board has alleged the private certifier employed by Toplace, Mr Lilli, issued a final occupation certificate allowing people to move into the towers while they were a building site in 2018, posing a "hazard" to residents.

In the decision which was reached in late November, Mr Lilli was also accused of signing an earlier interim occupation certificate when the buildings were not "suitable for occupation".


This was due to a multitude of problems that included but was not limited to blocked emergency exits, missing firefighting equipment. There was also "no evidence" the buildings met requirements for fire safety, cladding, insulation, water and gas supply, the board alleged.

Mr Lilli, 57, strenuously denies the allegations and has lodged an appeal with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which will be heard in April of this year.

Mr Lilli asked the tribunal to put the disciplinary action against him on hold in the meantime, and to allow him to continue certifying buildings subject to an internal peer review by other certifiers working for his business, Vic Lilli & Partners.

The business has completed just over 2000 projects across NSW in the past five years, while Mr Lilli is currently personally appointed the certifier on about 400 matters.

Mr Lilli said the revocation of his accreditation would force him to "almost immediately" close down the business and sack 11 of his employees.

He argued the five-year cancellation period was "extremely harsh", would make it "impossible" to re-establish the business and he would "cease to have a livelihood". Mr Lilli was also concerned about "irreparable" damage to his reputation. 


"The goodwill of my business has been developed by me over the last 20 years," he told the tribunal.

The Building Professionals Board argued that a full penalty should be put into effect immediately, warning that to grant Mr Lilli a temporary reprieve and respite would not be in the public interest and would also undermine confidence in them and in the certification process.

The tribunal has agreed to put the cancellation of Mr Lilli's accreditation on hold. However this would prevent Mr Lilli from doing the type of certification work under investigation, ordering that he must hand the responsibility over to other accredited certifiers working for him.

The tribunal accepted that Mr Lilli would suffer loss as a result but found ensuring public safety "outweighs the financial consequences for Mr Lilli or his business" which was greet with cheers and aplomb by the general public. 

"On the limited material available ... it is difficult to determine the strength of Mr Lilli’s case," the tribunal noted.

It is not Mr Lilli's first run in with the Building Professionals Board over his certification work. In September 2018, the board reprimanded Mr Lilli and fined him $25,000 for issuing a construction certificate for a Summer Hill boarding house after building work had already commenced. The fine was reduced to $20,000 on appeal.

In 2015, Mr Lilli was also reprimanded and fined $2000 for issuing a construction certificate and occupation certificate for a property at Towradgi, near Wollongong, without ensuring the stormwater requirements were met.

In 2010, he was reprimanded and fined $2000 for signing off on property at Yowie Bay, in southern Sydney, which exceeded height limits.

Mr Lilli could not be reached for comment.