SINGAPORE - Just over a decade ago, new homeowners had to go to their Housing Board (HDB) branch to report problems with their completed flats.
But this changed in 2005 with the introduction of dedicated Building Service Centres (BSC) for each completed project.
There, residents can report defects, receive advice and borrow equipment to do their own inspections. Samples of tiles and bathroom fittings are on display to help flat owners identify defects, and even a retractable laundry rack so that officers can demonstrate its proper use to residents.
On average, about a third of new BTO residents approach the BSC for help after collecting their keys, the HDB told The Straits Times. The BSC opens once the first keys are handed over, and runs for the one-year defects liability period.
In the past five years, surveys of new residents show that "close to 9 in 10" were satisfied with the BSC's service delivery, said the HDB.
The BSC's services come at the end of the HDB's overall framework for assuring flat quality.
The HDB starts by setting out the quality standards for each project. Contractors must adhere to an official list of recommended building materials and equipment suppliers.
The structural safety of the building is audited during construction. Timber mock-ups of toilets, kitchens, air-con ledges and service yards are built on site, so that any issues can be identified and fixed before work starts. Later, full sample units are built for quality control.
Finally, several separate checks are done: by a specialised audit team, by the project directors, and by the building inspection team that notes down defects to be rectified before keys are handed over.
Defects in new flats made headlines earlier this year, from hairline cracks to rusty door handles.
The HDB said it recognises "that some flats might not have met the expectations of our residents and there will still be issues to be addressed when construction completes".
Most feedback received is about surface imperfections such as hairline cracks or uneven tile joints. But some reported "defects" are actually inherent, added the HDB.
For instance, some flat owners take issue with the inconsistent colouring of timber flooring. But because timber is a natural product, each strip will necessarily vary.
There are also residents who "will not accept the completed rectification works, and demand repairs or replacements that are beyond the industry standards", noted the HDB.
It cited the case of a "Mr P" who submitted a list of over 100 defects after using an LED torch to examine his floor and wall tiles.
"Despite our considerable time and efforts in attending to his feedback, he claimed that the BSC had not been responsive to his feedback," said the HDB.