Have a demerit point system for building professionals

Over the past year, I have endured various problems and inconveniences arising from the reconstruction of our neighbour's house.

These included repeated flooding in different parts of our property, the severing of our front lamp post and the erection of scaffolding on our roof.

Perhaps the worst was a plank falling onto our driveway. We also discovered that the professional engineer for the project was unregistered .

Our complaints to various government agencies have elicited ineffectual responses.

I would like to suggest some changes to our building laws, which appear to be in dire need of an overhaul.

A demerit point system similar to that for driving licences should be implemented.

If a contractor, architect or engineer runs the risk of suspension or revocation of his licence, he is likely to be less cavalier in his approach when carrying out work.

Owners should be allowed to check the demerit point record of a contractor and other professionals before engaging them as they would not want the expense and inconvenience of having to switch halfway through a project if the contractor's or other professionals' licences are suspended or revoked.

There should also be a compulsory insurance scheme for contractors and other professionals. The insurers will be the first line of claim assessors, freeing up the courts.

Insurance will also ensure that a court judgment is not dishonoured because the contractor and other professionals do not have sufficient means and the property owner has mortgaged the property to the hilt.

Of course, no amount of money could compensate for injury or death.

These measures will drive up costs, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

It may help spur much-needed professionalism in the industry and drive out marginal players reliant on unskilled foreign workers who compete simply on pricing.

Jacqueline Low (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2018, with the headline 'Have a demerit point system for building professionals'. Subscribe