Spending on renovation up amid complaints

Home owners are spending more on renovation packages, which may be cause for concern as the industry has been ranked among the top 10 in the number of complaints received by Case.
Home owners are spending more on renovation packages, which may be cause for concern as the industry has been ranked among the top 10 in the number of complaints received by Case.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Home owners are spending more on renovation packages in recent years and the consumer watchdog is worried, given the many complaints directed at the industry.

For the past decade, the industry has been among the top 10 in the number of complaints received by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case).

The average value of renovation contracts signed has gone up - from an average of $5,742 per contract in 2008 to $11,237 last year. The total contract value of the renovation packages went up to $14.26 million last year from $7.2 million in 2008. These figures are according to complaints received by Case.

In a statement yesterday, Case said it was concerned. "This is especially so when many consumers pay a large deposit, or even pay in full upfront to the renovation contractor, and then subsequently run into disputes due to multiple delays or unsatisfactory renovation works, or encounter renovation contractors that cease operations and become uncontactable after collecting payment."

Last year, the renovation contractor industry was the fourth-most complained about, with 1,269 cases lodged with Case. Most complaints were over a failure to honour contractual obligations or promises, followed by unsatisfactory services.

Ms Augustine Kwa, for example, spent $70,000 to partially renovate her family's terraced house. But after two months, the 27-year-old IT assistant manager was left with damaged flooring, appliances and furniture. "They scratched the parquet floor in my room while building my walk-in wardrobe," she said.

The contractor had earlier refused to repair the damage, but is now in negotiations with the family.

Ms Kwa said it would be good if the industry had a checklist for contractors to confirm appliances and furniture were not damaged before renovation, and a contract stating they would compensate for any damage done.

Case said it has asked the Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association (RCMA) to look into improving standards and protecting consumers.

It added: "Last year, we launched the CaseTrust-RCMA joint accreditation scheme for renovation businesses where consumers' deposits are protected against business closure by way of a deposit performance bond. There are currently 30 CaseTrust-RCMA accredited businesses under this scheme."

Case is also organising a consumer fair next month for those looking to renovate their homes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2017, with the headline 'Spending on renovation up amid complaints'. Print Edition | Subscribe