HDB issues alert against upgrading works 'notice'

Firm offering services is neither registered with Housing Board, nor appointed by it

When residents of Housing Board blocks in several areas received fliers informing them about work to be done on their front gates, some thought it was an official upgrading of sorts.

But the HDB has come out to warn residents about Steel Elite Construction, saying the company behind the fliers is not registered with it, and there is nothing official about the service it offers.

Residents showed The Sunday Times the company's flier, which is headlined "Notice" and informs them that transparent protective covers for gates will be installed in their blocks on specific dates.

They are told the job, which takes 20 to 30 minutes and costs $68, is being done at the request of residents in the block and by "approved and trained HDB contractors". It is only on close reading that residents learn this is a service for sale, that it is "not compulsory" and that those who do not want it may reject it.

The "notice" claims the company is carrying out the work in Sengkang, Punggol, Tampines, Bedok, Yio Chu Kang and Hougang.

Some residents felt it was misleading, and without close reading, could appear as if this was being done with the HDB's blessings.

An HDB spokesman told The Sunday Times that Steel Elite Construction is not a registered renovation contractor, and has not been appointed by the board to carry out any work.

In fact, HDB received feedback from residents in Sengkang and Punggol about the company last November and put up notices at affected estates to alert residents.

It was unaware that Steel Elite Construction fliers have appeared at more blocks since. Now that they know, they have put up similar notices at the blocks.

Only registered contractors can carry out renovation within the flats. When there is maintenance or rectification work to be done within a flat, flat owners will be informed in advance, added the HDB. For general repair works such as installation of protective covers, however, flat owners can use any contractor.

Steel Elite Construction owner Alvin Ng told The Sunday Times that his company came up with the idea for the project and works with HDB registered contractors to do the installation works.

He said he has always been upfront with residents and town council officers who have contacted him, and tells them his company was not sent by HDB.

Told that some residents felt his fliers looked like official notices, he said: "If residents don't want our services, they can ignore our fliers. And if they think that it's misleading, we will change our wording in future."

Some Tampines residents interviewed felt more needed to be done to prevent people from being misled.

Housewife Noor Ul Aysha, 42, said: "I was going to call them because my door is a bit rusty, and I thought they were sent by HDB."

Retiree Cheng Choon Fei, 60, said: "There are quite a number of elderly in this estate, and they are a vulnerable group of people. This is not a trivial matter and such contractors should be punished."

Full-time national serviceman Vincent Lim, 23, who lives in Tampines, agreed, adding that while young adults would likely check online for more information, the elderly may be more gullible.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) said it received six complaints about unauthorised renovation orders in the first four months of the year. It had 13 complaints last year and six in 2011.

Case executive director Seah Seng Choon advised residents to check on licences and credentials of firms that approach them. They should also seek quotations from other companies, he added.

limyihan@sph.com.sg