Your Consumer Rights During Renovation Disputes In Singapore
Buying property in Singapore is a massive commitment, so choosing the right contractor or interior design (ID) firm to carry out renovations is a big deal too. While homeowners typically already thoroughly scrutinize the renovation contract before signing it, disputes can still arise during and after the renovation is complete. Knowing your consumer rights is important in these situations, so you can take appropriate actions to regain your money or rectify the renovation damage.
How can I avoid renovation disputes?
Renovation disputes can occur for a variety of reasons, and miscommunication is a major factor that can contribute. These proactive steps can help you reduce the chance of miscommunication during the renovation period:
- Ensure your contractor or ID firm is fully accredited.
- Clarify all inclusions, exclusions, and terms and conditions listed.
- Familiarize yourself with important contractual terms (e.g. liquidated damages, warranties, variations, rectification of defects)
- Put any verbal agreements or promises into writing.
- Insist on a progressive payment schedule (no full payment upfront) and settle the commencement and completion dates. Consider factors like border closures and pandemic-related delays, and think of alternative solutions.
- Gather evidence of defects during the renovation if necessary, and only make interim payments for satisfactory work.
- Engage in regular communication with your contractors, and don’t be afraid to be specific to avoid miscommunication.
If a dispute arises, you should first try to peacefully resolve it with the other party. Check if your contract has clauses on dispute resolution such as requiring mediation through the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE). If the dispute is overwork by a third-party supplier or subcontractor, your contract should tell you which party is deemed responsible. Here are further steps you can take to protect your consumer rights:
1. Lodge a complaint with CASE
This is suitable if the responsible party is your contractor or a third party. CASE is meant to protect consumer rights in Singapore, and they can act to correspond with the party on your behalf or draft a letter to them addressing your concerns.
2. Undergo mediation
Mediation is recommended as it is less costly, less time-consuming, and less emotionally draining than a protracted litigation process. CASE’s mediation scheme is affordable, and if successful, ends in a binding settlement signed by both parties. As CASE’s efforts are done so with Singaporeans’ consumer rights in mind, a breach of the settlement’s terms by the other party will give you cause of action in case of further disputes.
3. File a claim with the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT)
If a breach in contract or defects in the completed renovation occurred within the last year, and the sum claimed is up to $20,000, you can file a claim with the SCT. The SCT frequently deals with such cases regarding the rights of consumers in Singapore. If the contractor agrees to bring the case to the SCT, the sum claimed can be up to $30,000. However, you cannot make a second claim for any remaining amount once the case has been decided. To determine how much to file your claim for, you can engage another contractor to determine how much rectification would cost.
Pursuing Litigation if all other options fail
Renovation disputes can be a taxing and time-consuming process for all parties involved and litigation should be your last resort if mediation and arbitration both fail. Pursuing litigation could be due to the other parties being belligerent, or having no satisfactory outcome reached even after a long period of time. Reach out to our litigation and dispute resolution lawyers in Singapore for legal advice on protecting your consumer rights.
For more information, please contact our Business Development Manager, Ricky Soetikno, at email@example.com.