When someone in Sydney drops in to their local Kmart store and spends $12 on a saucepan, they can do so safe in the knowledge that consumer law is on their side.
If the saucepan leaks or the handle falls off, Kmart is required to give them a new saucepan or a refund.
But if that same person scrimps and saves and spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new apartment and something goes wrong, they're pretty much left on their own.
No matter what the failings of the developer, the builder or the property certifier, the property owner often – though not always – receives no help or compensation.
This has become a big issue in Sydney over the past few months after residents of three apartment buildings were forced to abandon their homes when cracks and leaks gave rise to safety fears.
The owners often face repair bills in the tens of thousands of dollars and are left holding an apartment that no one wants to buy because the publicity around the building has tainted it as defective.
The faults are the result of almost unfettered apartment construction in Sydney over the past decade and a relaxing of building regulations.
Some property experts say that literally thousands of buildings will have to be evacuated in future.
If there were any lessons to be learned from New Zealand's leaky building crisis last decade, successive governments and regulators in NSW have not heeded them.
Until they were banned from making donations from politicians, property developers and builders were among the most generous givers in NSW, so it's little wonder they have been given a free hand over the years.
When it comes to newly-constructed apartments, the laws are heavily weighted against consumers and in favour of developers.
In 1989, NSW moved to self-regulation for the building industry, where builders and developers could hire private sector certifiers to check that their work is up to standard. It doesn't take a genius to realise that if someone is being paid by the person they're supposed to be regulating then there is potential for compromised decisions. And of all the sectors in which to introduce self-regulation, why property development, with its reputation for fly-by-night operators and lax ethical standards?
Under current laws, builders have no responsibility to the buyers of apartments. Their responsibility is to the developer.
Additionally, there are no home building warranties for blocks over three storeys high. For those which are covered, owners can only claim for non-major defects within two years and for major defects within six years. But as we have seen in the past few months, sometimes it can take a decade for major faults to emerge.
And if by some miracle the developer and builder haven't exploited the lax laws to ensure they aren't liable for any defects, the apartment owner still probably won't get any compensation.
This is in some part the result of "phoenixing", where a business owner puts their company into liquidation and so escapes any debts the company owes and any liabilities it has, such as for defective work. The next day – safe in the knowledge that their assets aren't accessible to creditors and disgruntled customers – the business owner sets up shop again with a new company and begins the whole cycle all over again.
The practice is a particular favourite of the property sector, where each development is housed in a property development company created just for the duration of construction.
Once the project is finished and sold to buyers – and the profits distributed to the company owners – the company is wound up and the property developers move on to the next project.
If something goes wrong, there is no one the property owners can sue for compensations.
The NSW government is pushing through some reforms, but in reality they are far too late. Property developers – at least those who will still be here tomorrow – also want reform. They are worried about the great losses and hardship so many apartment owners could suffer. Actually, that's not quite true. What really worries them is that the crisis will sap confidence from the new apartment market and dent their profits.
If predictions that thousands of buildings will need to be evacuated and repaired or rebuild turn out to be true, it will be a major hit to Sydney's property market.
Billions of dollars needed for repairs will be pulled from the apartment owners' savings and sliced off the value of their apartments.
And guess what? Most of that money will go to builders.
The apartment owners will have to scrimp and save some more to hold onto their properties. Meanwhile many the builders and developers will take comfort from knowing their assets are safely out of their victims' reach and that they haven't been stupid enough to buy any of their own products.