So CASE and the RMCA are pushing for contractors to be assessed and accredited, so that consumers can have greater peace of mind. Let’s skip the smaller fish and focus on the biggest contractor in Singapore, the one that’s responsible for all our public housing – the HDB. How about taking the HDB to task first for shoddy workmanship and defects which have caused consumers so much headache over the years.
Consumers have a choice when it comes to private contractors. But the HDB has an instituted monopoly over public housing. Who will protect us from the Board? Here’s just some cases which arose in recent months alone, and the HDB’s “deflection” excuses as to why it can’t offer good workmanship all the time (that’s like a fruit seller saying “I sell you 10 oranges, 1 bad never mind lah”)
Who will protect us from the HDB?
(1) The Canopy at Yishun
Residents complain that when they moved in, there were scratches on glass surfaces, cracks on walls and ceilings, uneven flooring, paint stains, poorly plastered walls and water-damaged tiles, among other defects.
One resident, Mr William Lee, 40, said he found an empty cigarette carton and a plastic bag stuffed below the bathtub in his penthouse unit.
Ms A Seah, 33, said she found a large scratch running down her living room wall as well as cracks in her parquet, among others. Another resident, who wished to be known only as Mr Ng, said he is considering hiring his own contractor to make remedies to the rusty hinges, slanted taps and scratches on glass found in his house, and then get the developer to bear the cost.
Mr Tan B K, 48, who bought a penthouse unit for S$1.15 million, said “the standard is definitely not up to the mark”. He claimed that he found more than 500 defects, including a gas pipe that is not connected to the stove. He gave up trying to label all the defects, which he photographed and compiled for the developer. “It is completely unacceptable. If there are more than 10 flaws, it is not a defect anymore, it’s a workmanship issue,” he added.
(2) Anchorvale Horizon BTO at Sengkang
Residents who received their keys recently were unhappy with the poor workmanship and finishing of their flats.
“I guess it depends on luck. I’m from Anchorvale Horizon n my unit is one of the few who have very minimal defect. But blardi bsc took so long to rectify even the smallest of defects that what could be rectified in 2 weeks took over a mth. But some of my neighbors didn’t have it lucky though. Theirs had alot of defects that u can’t just close an eye to. Some are (from those I spoke to or went to their unit to help check on defects):
1) svc yard door came off the frame
2) rusty nail sticking out from the corner of a skirting (and that neighbor had 2 young toddlers btw)
3) uneven bumpy floors (extremely common defect)
4) one couple who just got their key went to open the door to their new unit only to have the key stuck in the keyhole and key snapped off.
I guess all this is see heng or suay one.
Oh yes, u can submit yr defect form even after the so called 1 week given time. And u can submit multiple times even mths after as long as before reno. We submitted our defects at least 5 or more times cos some defects don’t show thru on first visual inspection.”
Another new resident was so fed-up with the defects in his HDB unit as well as his dealings with HDB that he wrote a long complaint letter and posted online. This is an excerpt:
“Our nightmares started when we got our keys to our unit, there are many defects which could not be squeezed into the defect reporting form HDB provided. Our living flooring is terribly done; edges of almost all tiles are not even and they even have rough edges that might cut our feet. When reporting them to the contractor (from China, Jing Ye), they turned defensive mentioning they are following guideline provided by HDB. If we are like some other not highly educated Singaporeans, or those who do not know what they can fight for, we might had unwillingly accept the flooring. But I think that is not right for us to keep quiet and accept them. Thus, I requested for joint inspection with the presence of HDB personnel. BSC, the unit that help us coordinate the defect reworks, told us on the following week that HDB personnel will go down to check before arranging the joint inspection.
My wife and I had marked all the defects except the living room flooring for reporting. But on the day of the joint inspection, I was surprised that there are markings on the floor with the word “uneven” on them. And best of all, even with them on which were marked by either the contractor or HDB, the HDB personnel denied that it was neither their contractor’s fault nor HDB’s. And they tried to cover themselves, claiming the flooring is acceptable according to ‘Industrial practice’ and they are under ‘tolerances’. And he added “but we will try to rectify it for you”.
That is very contradicting, why would they marked my flooring with the ‘uneven’ wordings and still insist that the flooring is okay. He seems like trying his luck to smoke us. I believe some of our neighbors might have been told off just like this. But he can sense our unhappiness and knew we would escalate further. So they decide to hack away the existing flooring and re-lay them. Results are still the same. After 5-6 times of rectifications, there is no improvement in the flooring. And every meeting takes place on weekdays which we had to took vacation leaves just to compromise to the HDB personnel’s working timing. And the frustrating part is at every meeting, HDB personnel would use the same excuse to try convince us to accept the flooring. And if we do not accept, he would tell us he will ask the contractors to rework again. I found it weird that no matter how lousy someone’s workmanship is, they will not keep repeating the same mistake unless they are real idiots.”
(3) BTO at Tampines Central 8
Another angry Singaporean consumer of the HDB:
“I recently just bought a BTO flat at Tampines central 8 but the quality of the workmanship and materials used is just unbelievable.
A few of our neighbours have posted photos of the various defects that they have come across in their houses and it’s clear that HDB and the developer have just rushed through this whole project and left many problems.
Many residents have complained about rust on the brand new metal parts, chips in the wood, cracks in the walls and door that don’t close properly:
There are also cases where the materials have cracked or broken within the first week of having collected the keys.
For one resident, their toilet bowl cracked and leaked blue liquid everywhere within the first week and others reported that new cracks appeared on the walls in just 3 days.
What kind of inferior quality materials are they using that they crack in just 1 week!?
It seems that the brand new BTO flats that we are paying good money for are all filled with defects these days.
How is this acceptable?”
This is how the HDB defends its workmanship defects. Does this explanation fly?
HDB has a system in place to ensure that the quality of its new flats meet acceptable industry standards. We abide by a clear set of guidelines and impose quality checks at every stage of construction, including pre- and post-construction.
For example, contractors are required to inspect completed flats and carry out the necessary rectification works to the full satisfaction of HDB’s quality officers, before handing the flats over to HDB. Despite the stringent process, some minor imperfections may still remain due to the inherent features of natural materials or the nature of construction works that are dependent on manual labour.
As part of our commitment to quality, we provide all new HDB flat owners with HDB’s Assure 3 warranty coverage for ceiling and external wall seepage, and spalling concrete. This is in addition to the 1-year Defects Liability Period (DLP) for all new property owners to report defects for rectification, a timeframe similar to private sector developments.
HDB advises new flat owners to inspect their flat and report any defects to their development’s Building Services Centre (BSC) within the DLP. During this period, the BSCs are conveniently located near the new flats for owners to report the defects for prompt follow up by the contractors. Subsequently, flat owners can report any defects to their HDB Branch.
In general, defects reported are rectified within two weeks. In cases where the contractor requires more time, for reasons such as unavailability of materials, flat owners will be informed of the expected completion date.
The issue of defects rectification can be made more trying and complex when there are differences in understanding and expectations. An imperfection may be seen as a defect, and this usually happens with home owners who expect their new flat to be in pristine condition. While this is understandable, adopting zero tolerance towards defects and imperfections is not a reasonable expectation.
- A recent encounter with a flat owner over the level difference between the floor tiles in his new flat is a case in point. While the level difference between the floor tiles in his flat had met industry standards, he found it unacceptable despite several rounds of rectification, as he expected the laid tiles to be perfectly even.
- Some flat owners may also report ‘defects’ that are actually imperfections that arise from the nature of the product or manufacturing process. For example, for floors with timber finishes, some owners have given feedback on the colour inconsistencies. As timber is a natural, organic product, the shade and grain of each strip of the timber will vary. It is thus not possible to achieve a perfectly homogenous look.
- In the case of ceramic floor tiles, some owners have reported the gaps between the tiles as ‘defects’. These gaps are not defects as such. Ceramic tiles are produced at high temperatures and the tiles will shrink upon cooling. The extent to which each tile shrinks may vary slightly. To accommodate the slight variations in dimensions, the tiles are laid with gaps in between, and cement grout is used to fill these gaps.
We acknowledge that there are times when defects may still remain despite everyone’s best efforts. HDB will make good on the defects caused by manufacturing lapses, or when the work is not up to standard. There are prevailing industry standards and practices which serve as objective arbiters for both public and private developments in cases of doubt and dispute.