Case issues alert against 3 renovation contractors after getting complaints over uncompleted work

The total contract value of the renovation works amounted to an estimated $580,000, according to consumers. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) has issued alerts to consumers after it received complaints about three renovation contractors.

The contractors are Sense Construction Werkz, Sense Visual and K & L Interior. Case received nine, seven and five complaints respectively from Nov 1 last year to March 31 this year.

Consumers complained that they had made almost full or partial payments for renovation projects, but the works were repeatedly delayed or left uncompleted, said Case on Wednesday (April 13).

According to consumers, the three contractors had cited manpower shortage and staff contracting Covid-19 as reasons for the delays.

Some consumers also reported that the companies increased the project cost without their consent, and made mistakes in the renovation, electrical and paint works.

They reported that the companies were unresponsive to requests to complete unfinished renovation work and rectify outstanding defects.

The companies also requested for advance payment to continue the renovation despite not completing the outstanding work according to schedule.

The total contract value of the renovation works amounted to an estimated $580,000, according to consumers.

In response to consumer complaints, Case had issued warning letters to the three businesses and urged them to fulfil their contractual obligations towards consumers.

"Case is monitoring the renovation contractors closely, and will not hesitate to refer them to the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore for further investigation of possible unfair practices under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act," said the consumer watchdog.

Based on records from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, Sense Construction Werkz and K & L Interior have the same director and secretary.

Sense Construction Werkz and K & L Interior also have the same registered office address at 10 Admiralty Street, North Link Building.

According to complaints received and contracts signed by consumers, Sense Visual has the same contact person as Sense Construction Werkz and K & L Interior.

Case advised consumers who are engaging renovation contractors to do their due diligence and avoid making substantial payments upfront.

It also advised consumers to take note of the following when making prepayments for renovation projects:

- Do thorough research on the credibility and track record of the renovation contractor before signing the contract, and to insist on a written contract.

- Consumers are encouraged to use Case's model agreement on home renovation. For renovation projects, negotiate for the deposit to be as low as possible and negotiate for a progressive payment according to the project milestones.

- Document outstanding renovation defects by taking photos. 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, winding up, liquidation, or all three, before the renovation is completed. The list of CaseTrust-accredited renovation contractors can be found on this website.

- 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 on 9795-8397, or going to its website.

- Consumers who suspect that the renovation company has committed fraud should file a police report.

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Said Mr Melvin Yong, president of Case: "Over the past year, Case has seen a sharp increase in the number of complaints pertaining to home renovation. We are concerned about this trend, and would like to urge consumers to do their research and engage only renovation firms with good customer service and track records."

He added that Case would like to reiterate its call on the Government to consider mandating prepayment protection in industries that collect large sums of payment, such as the renovation, beauty and furniture industries.

This is to better protect consumers against prepayment losses.

"Case will continue to work with the government and industry stakeholders to encourage fair trade practices and reduce the number of consumer complaints," he added.

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