Complaints against renovation contractors up due to unsatisfactory workmanship, delays

Case received 1,300 complaints against renovation contractors last year, up from 869 in 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A total of 807 complaints against renovation contractors were lodged with the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) in the first half of the year.

This was an increase of 28 per cent from the 627 complaints Case received about the industry in the same period last year, said the association in a statement on Thursday (July 28).

Case received 1,300 complaints against renovation contractors last year, up from 869 in 2020.

About two-thirds of the complaints this year pertain to renovation contractors failing to complete projects on schedule and unsatisfactory workmanship.

The home renovation industry received the highest number of complaints during this period, followed by the electrical and electronics, beauty and motor cars industries, all of which received more complaints than last year.

Case received a total of 7,960 consumer complaints from January to June, a 9 per cent increase from the 7,260 complaints received for the same period last year.

Case president Melvin Yong attributed the increase to upticks in business activities and consumer transactions that have picked up since Covid-19 restrictions were eased.

"Case will continue to keep a lookout for unfair practices against consumers. In the meantime, we are working with the authorities to further strengthen consumer protection legislation in Singapore," he said.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Mr Yong said most complaints were for delays in project completion caused by manpower shortages and delays in the shipment of renovation materials. He reminded home owners that they could also patronise CaseTrust-accredited renovation contractors for peace of mind.

One such complaint was from retiree Chow Jhok Kheng, 70, who engaged a contractor in February to renovate her kitchen for $11,900. 

Though payment was made, renovations were incomplete even after two months. The contractor did not give her a deadline for when the work would be completed. 

Madam Chow said the contractor would often delay or stop work without giving her notice and the partially completed renovation works left her kitchen with exposed wires and leaking pipes. Since gas to the home was also disconnected during the renovation period, she could not cook at home which greatly inconvenienced her.

Case officers assisted Madam Chow in negotiations with the contractor and all outstanding renovation works was completed in May.

Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said in a written reply to a parliamentary question earlier this month that renovation fraud generally involves renovation contractors inducing victims to make payment for promised renovation works, which are either partially completed or not carried out at all. 

He added that in most cases, the contractors become uncontactable after collecting payment, or provide excuses to explain why they were unable to complete the promised works.

Contractors who deceive victims into placing deposits for renovation works without any intent to carry out such works can be charged over cheating offences.

Mr Shanmugam also added that home owners who intend to carry out renovation works can consider engaging contractors with a good track record, such as those accredited by Case and Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association.

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