Ugly spat over 'beautiful new home' in Sembawang

Neighbours sue one another over project to rebuild terrace house

WHEN retiree Edward Teo Boon Hiang was hired to rebuild his neighbours' house, he hoped it would be a straightforward job that would earn him a bit of extra income.

Meanwhile, the couple who owned the property were apparently looking forward to a beautiful new home.

None of them got what they wanted.

More than a year after the contract was signed, construction work on the single-storey, corner terrace house allegedly remained unfinished.

Mr Teo is now suing his neighbours - Air Force Lieutenant- Colonel Ng Boo Han and his wife - for $89,000, which he claims they still owe him.

He also alleges that he was shouted at and asked to do extra work that was not in the agreement.

But the couple have lodged a counter-claim for $200,000 - saying the retiree failed to complete the project, and left it in dire need of rectification work.

The saga began in December 2010, when Lt-Col Ng and his wife, Madam Audrey-Ann Koo Oi Lian, allegedly called uninvited at Mr Teo's double-storey corner terrace house in Jalan Machang in Sembawang.

He says they told him they were impressed with his English-themed home and later hired him to rebuild their property in a similar style.

Mr Teo - who used to run a carpentry renovation business - argues in court papers that they wanted to turn it into a double-storey house with an attic, just like his.

They allegedly told him their budget was only $350,000 and agreed he could use recycled materials where he deemed fit.

Mr Teo says he then took up the project, which was due to be finished in August 2011, thinking he could earn a small income of about 5 per cent of the contract sum, which works out to $17,500.

The agreement stated that the couple would give him a free hand to construct their house, which included a master bedroom with a washroom on the ground floor, two bedrooms with a common toilet on the second floor, a study room, a music room, a kitchen and an attic. They paid him $140,000 - 40 per cent of the total sum - when he signed the contract and another 40 per cent a few months later, with the rest to be paid when they moved in.

But before they got to that point, the neighbours' relationship went downhill.

Mr Teo claims the couple demanded additional work and items that had not been agreed upon. He allegedly carried out the extra work, at an estimated cost of $49,000.

The retiree says they fell out after Lt-Col Ng's wife shouted at him over the location of a dishwasher in the kitchen.

He then allegedly completed the construction project - despite their "unreasonable" demands - before forking out $21,000 of his own money to pay the contractors and suppliers. But the couple deny asking him to do extra work and say the relationship turned sour after they questioned the way he was managing the cost of the project.

In defence papers, they claim that it was Mr Teo who first broached the idea of the construction works, after he invited them into his home when they inquired which house builder he used.

He allegedly told the couple that he had looked at their house during his regular walks around the neighbourhood and always had a desire to rebuild it.

When they visited him the following month, he was said to have promised to build them a "beautiful home".

Mr Teo is being represented by lawyer Chia Boon Teck of Chia Wong LLP.

The case will be heard at the Subordinate Courts today.

joycel@sph.com.sg