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Thread: Dream home, renovation nightmare

  1. #1
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    Default Dream home, renovation nightmare

    Jan 7, 2010

    Dream home, renovation nightmare

    Complaints against contractors increase amid property boom

    By Tessa Wong

    LAST year's unexpected property boom has delivered an unwanted side effect: a spike in complaints against renovation contractors.

    Already, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) has charted a 20 per cent jump in the last year, and it says it expects the situation to worsen further this year.

    The rise in complaints came on the back of a spike in resale property purchases, which prop up the renovation business.

    Resale transactions for private homes more than quadrupled between the first and third quarters, while those for Housing Board flats went up by 80 per cent.

    The number of complaints against renovation contractors rose in tandem, going from 189 in the first quarter of last year to 226 in the third quarter.

    Although the final figure for the fourth quarter is not yet available, the number of complaints had hit 832 by the end of November.

    Mr Seah Seng Choon, Case's executive director, said: 'We expect the number of complaints to increase as the improving economy results in both the number of home purchases going up and more consumers embarking on renovations.'

    He said some cases involved contractors who cheated their customers, while others delivered poor quality work.

    Whatever the reason, the results were the same: work that fell far short of customers' expectations.

    Among last year's complaints, a number arose out of contractors promising to use quality materials, but settling for inferior fittings instead.

    One complainant's doors started warping after a week; another had flimsy wardrobe shelving that collapsed shortly after installation.

    Other complaints included long delays in renovation, failure to honour contract terms and, in a few cases, contractors making off with their clients' money midway through the works.

    Mr Seah warned that as the renovation business hots up, contractors would stretch whatever resources they have, which may make matters worse.

    They will also find it hard to hire and keep their good workers.

    'Because of the high turnover in workers, the skills won't be there,' he added.

    Air-conditioner installer Brendan Tay said finding skilled workers was part of the problem.

    'The local ones don't want to do this kind of work any more, and those from China want to go back after earning enough money,' he said.

    But some homeowners feel that contractors are choosing to hire cheap labour rather than pay for skilled workers, with predictable results.

    One homeowner, who wanted to be known only as Mr Woo as he is planning legal action against his contractor over a botched job, said: 'Comparing my latest renovation to the previous one 10 years ago, the quality has really dropped because of cheaper workers from China. Their work is not so good.'

    One recent victim is marine manager Michael Chong, who bought a semi-detached house in Seletar Hills and had planned to move in by September last year.

    First, his contractor demolished more than what was agreed upon, causing a legal headache for Mr Chong as his permit allowed for only alterations and additions.

    Then the project was mired in delays, and the contractor became uncontactable. By then, Mr Chong had already paid out $55,000.

    The house remains unfinished. Mr Chong, 50, said he intends to take the contractor to the Small Claims Tribunal.

    'I shouldn't have trusted him so much,' he said.

    Case's Mr Seah noted that the renovation business has consistently been among the industries attracting the most complaints.

    Hoodwinked homeowners interviewed by The Straits Times called for tighter legislation, such as requiring renovation contracts to follow a basic template and drawing up a blacklist of dishonest contractors.

    But Mr Seah said: 'Regulation will not stop people from shutting down and popping up under another name.

    'At the end of the day, it must be the consumer who ensures the contractor complies with requirements.'

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    What precautions homeowners can take

    THE Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) suggests that those about to renovate their homes:

    # Check the licences, accreditation and credentials of the firms they have hired.

    # Request quotations from more than one design firm.

    # Discuss proposed designs and project schedules with the designer.

    # Vet thoroughly not only the colour schemes, but also the materials to be used and the dimensions.

    # Note the capabilities of the contractor engaged by the interior designers to execute the proposed designs.

    # Check that the contract lists the products and services and that the bill is itemised.

    # Set up a schedule with clear deadlines.

    # Set up a progressive payment schedule. Payment should not be made in full upfront.

    # Document and take photos of outstanding defects in case of disputes.

    # Refer to the list of accredited CaseTrust contractors available at

    # Use a model agreement on home renovation, which can be found at

    # Refer to the Building and Construction Authority's guides on good industry practices. The website can be found at

    # Seek the assistance of Case or file a claim with the Small Claims Tribunal if a dispute is unresolved.

  2. #2
    mr funny is offline Any complaints please PM me
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    Default Avoidable angst over home renovations


    Jan 9, 2010

    Avoidable angst over home renovations

    RENOVATION contractors are emerging as a new ogre in the active property cycle, according to a Straits Times consumer report on Thursday. Many house-proud consumers are reduced to tearing their hair out after run-ins with tradesmen variously described as unreliable, unskilled and dishonest. Shoddy and incompetent work, use of inferior materials than those specified and unjustified work delays are the more common complaints. Less astute customers who paid upfront in full have had contractors run out on them, leaving holes and plenty of rubble behind. Consumers thus traumatised will get sympathy but not much else from the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), which says it is expecting to receive lots more complaints about renovators as more resale flats change hands in the private and HDB markets.

    Case recorded more than 800 complaints up till November last year. Even without a baseline for comparison, it is a sizeable number for a service with a long enough history to have stabilised itself. Case offers consumers helpful tips on how not to come to grief when engaging renovators, but contract disputes and facilitating restitution are beyond its brief. Consumers are on their own. They should shop with care and ensure full observance of contract terms. Deals gone bad can cost them a considerable sum, from the low five figures and up to six figures. Other tradespeople, like plumbers and appliance repairers, are not any less a bane of homeowners for their spotty service and high charges.

    The scandalous situation persists although there is licensing or trade-association accreditation. Renovators are on the CaseTrust list. It is doubtful tighter regulation will help much, if professionalism is lacking. Renovation contractors are liable to cut corners where they can over materials and fittings, and hire cheaper, ill-trained workers, regardless of whether their margins are thin or ample.

    A perverse irony is in play: homeowners tend to get into a pickle because they are needlessly elaborate in their idea of a dream home. They go the whole hog - ripping up the flooring, redesigning kitchens and bathrooms, putting in fancy ceiling refinements, patios and such. Resale HDB flats require little sprucing up; condominiums even less. The first owners would have seen to it. Too much money is being wasted on misplaced vanity and a questionable sense of aesthetics. If homeowners would be sensible about improvements or replacements, it will not by itself bring more professionalism to the trade. But there will be less angst about being ripped off if the work is kept to essentials.

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