When you’re excitedly waiting to move into your dream home, the last thing you need is your renovation contractor bailing on you. But in reality, that’s exactly what many local homeowners have been facing.
The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) received 1,447 complaints against renovation contractors last year, and there have been 800 complaints in the first half of this year alone. What’s worse, among the cases that were filed with CASE in 2015, only slightly over half were resolved!
The most common complaints by homeowners were:
1) Failure to honour contractual obligations
2) Unsatisfactory services
Affected homeowners believed that the contractors knew their clients wouldn’t take legal action against them because of the expense.
One such unfortunate couple, Mr and Mrs Alan, paid 90 per cent of the total cost of $70,000 to interior designers from Sense Ideas Designs over four weeks, with the renovation of their condo in Telok Kurau due to last six to eight weeks. They had planned to give their daughter a “health conscious” environment to play in, complete with a small gym area and a rock-climbing wall.
Mr Alan, 33, a podiatrist, says, “We shortlisted five companies and we didn’t choose this one because it was the cheapest, but because they seemed to get our concept.”
The IDs initially asked for an extension in the completion of the project, but eventually texted the couple saying they were in financial difficulty and could not continue.
The couple made a police report and turned to CASE for help, but to no avail. They then turned to a debt recovery company but have yet to receive a cent back. Mr Alan’s wife, a sales manager, says, “The first couple of weeks, we had sleepless nights. There was tension. But now, we have to move on.”
They have sent a letter of demand to the company through a lawyer and are waiting to hear back. They also had to extend their lease on the Guillemard Road condominium apartment they have been renting. On top of the monthly rent, they have had to fork out close to another $50,000 to hire another contractor to finish the job.
“A month later, everything seemed to stop. We saw the same loose wire hanging in the kitchen every time we went.”
Another homeowner, Ms Kasthuri, 27, a regulatory affairs specialist, lost $28,000 to a renovation contractor too. She and her husband had been referred to a contractor and arranged to meet him at a showroom. However, when they arrived, only his colleague was there so they discussed their ideas with him. This man they spoke to left the company shortly after, but as he already knew what they wanted and had given them a quotation within their $30,000 budget, they hired him.
This was a mistake. For the first month, they would check on the progress of their Sembawang flat and see things moving.
“A month later, everything seemed to stop. We saw the same loose wire hanging in the kitchen every time we went,” Ms Kasthuri said. They got suspicious was the contractor did not turn up at an appointment, despite many calls. Eventually, he told the couple he couldn’t continue the project as he was taking care of his fiancee’s father who was dying in hospital.
“We felt sorry, but that didn’t mean he could just not complete what was in our contract,” she said.
When the couple took him to the Small Claims Tribunal, the judge told him to pay the couple $6,000, which he allegedly failed to do. Ms Kasthuri’s parents-in-law eventually paid another contractor $20,000 to complete the renovation.
Protect yourself against errant contractors and avoid losing hard-earned money on your dream home renovation with 6 top tips from CASE: