Case issues alert against renovation contractor after getting 30 complaints

Case had tried to resolve the issues with 99 Reno but was unsuccessful.
Case had tried to resolve the issues with 99 Reno but was unsuccessful.PHOTO: PEXELS

SINGAPORE - The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) has issued a company alert against 99 Reno, a renovation contractor based in French Road.

Case said it received 30 consumer complaints against the contractor from July 2020 till end of June 2021.

Most of the complaints were from consumers who made advance and instalment payments but experienced repeated delays in renovation works, Case said on Friday (July 30).

Case had tried to resolve the issues with 99 Reno but was unsuccessful. The company, which has an office registered at Kitchener Complex in French Road, also did not respond to a warning letter issued by Case.

When The Straits Times visited the registered address of 99 Reno on Friday, the company there was found to be Panaoffice Business Centre. A staff member at the office told ST that 99 Reno uses the place as its registered address but only for its mail to go there.

"In many cases, renovation work such as installation of kitchen cabinets, carpentry work and electrical works were left incomplete," Case said. "Some consumers reported that 99 Reno had collected prepayments for their projects, but did not start work."

Consumers had also reported that the company cited the Covid-19 pandemic, manpower shortage and cash flow issues as reasons for the delay in renovation works.

The company was also allegedly unable to provide a firm date for completing the works.

Yet, 99 Reno continued to take on new projects and collect deposits from consumers, said Case. The company is also said to have asked existing customers to pay the full contract sum to restart uncompleted renovation work.

"According to consumers, the cost of the renovation projects ranged from $6,000 to $54,000," said Case.

It would monitor 99 Reno closely, and said it would not hesitate to take the necessary action provided for under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA), which may include referring the matter to the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore.

Under the CPFTA, it is an unfair practice to accept payment for supplying goods and services when the supplier knows or ought to know it will not be able to supply the goods or services promised punctually, at or before the time they receive payment.

Case advised consumers to take note of the following when engaging home renovation contractors:

- Compare quotations from different contractors, and do thorough research on the credibility and track record of the contractor before signing the contract. Insist on a written contract. Consumers are encouraged to use Case's model agreement on home renovation.

- Negotiate for the deposit to be as low as possible and negotiate for a progressive payment according to the project milestones. The typical milestones and amounts are as follows: 10 per cent upon confirmation, 80 per cent paid progressively as each stage of the renovation work is completed, and the final 10 per cent upon satisfactory completion of all works and rectification of issues.

- Document outstanding defects by taking photos. Consumers should ensure outstanding defects are fully rectified before making full payment. The photos can also be used as supporting evidence in case of disputes.

- Patronise CaseTrust-accredited renovation contractors.

They are required to protect a customer's deposit via the purchase of a deposit performance bond. The bond safeguards deposits against business closure before the renovation is completed. They are also required to adopt the CaseTrust Standard Renovation Contract, which contains various clauses that safeguard consumers' interests, and ensures accountability for project deliverables. In addition, these contractors have in place proper and clearly defined dispute resolution mechanisms. The list of CaseTrust-accredited renovation contractors can be found online.

- Housing Board flat owners are advised to engage a contractor from HDB's directory of renovation contractors. The listed contractors are required to abide by HDB's terms and ensure that the renovation work is conducted safely and does not cause damage to the property. The directory can be found online.

- Consumers with unresolved disputes can approach Case for assistance by calling its hotline 6100-0315, or going to its website.

  • Additional reporting by Goh Ruoxue