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CASE sounds alarm over rising spend on renovation packages

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SINGAPORE: Consumers are spending more on renovating or furnishing their homes in recent years, with many paying a large deposit or full upfront payment, leaving them vulnerable to disputes with contractors, said the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE).

In a press release on Tuesday (Aug 29), the consumer watchdog said it is “concerned” with the increase in spending on renovation packages. In the first seven months of this year, consumers have spent S$8,420,000 in total contract value for such packages, with an average value of S$11,711 per contract signed.

By comparison, consumers spent S$14,260,000 for the whole of 2016, with an average value of S$11,237, figures by CASE showed.

The concern stems from consumers potentially running into disputes with contractors due to multiple delays or unsatisfactory renovation works or encountering those whose operations cease and become uncontactable after payment, it said.

The renovation contractor industry has been in CASE’s top 10 list of industries with the highest number of complaints for the past decade, and it was ranked fourth in 2016 with a total of 1,269 complaints lodged with the organisation. The top nature of complaint for the industry is failure to honour an agreement, followed by unsatisfactory services, it added.

CASE’s education committee chairman Linus Ng said: “We suspect the number of complaints we have is only a fraction. It’s the tip of the iceberg. That is bad enough because for this particular industry, the entry barrier is relatively low. There are many smaller players out there, and a lot of these smaller players are probably doing a lot of dubious practices which could harm consumers.”

In light of this, CASE said it has contacted the Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association (RCMA) to look into how they can improve standards and better protect consumers in this industry.

It pointed to an initiative last year, when the CaseTrust-RCMA joint accreditation scheme for renovation businesses was launched. With this, consumers’ deposits are protected against business closure by way of a deposit performance bond. There are currently 30 accredited businesses, and they can be found on the CaseTrust website.

Dr Sky Tan, RCMA president, said: “The most important (thing) is to let the public and consumers know what is the so-called points they have to take note of when they engage a renovation contractor. So … don’t just go for pricing. You have to do research.”

The consumer watchdog said that for this year, it is focusing on consumer education, and will organise an educational fair on Sep 2 when homeowners can learn what to look out for when renovating or furnishing their homes. It has also invited the Building and Construction Authority, Housing and Development Board, RCMA and SPRING Singapore to offer their expertise and knowledge at this event, according to the press release.

(Additional reporting by Calvin Hui)

Source: CNA/kk

Renovating your home? Watch your deposit

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Consumers urged to negotiate their payment plans to protect against rogue contractors

Those looking to renovate their homes should not pay more than 20 per cent as a deposit, says the contractor industry’s association.

This was one of the suggestions by Dr Sky Tan, president of the Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association (RCMA), on how consumers can better protect themselves from errant contractors.

On Tuesday, the Consumer Association of Singapore (Case) flagged concerns about the industry, which for the past decade has been among the top 10 in the ranking of the number of complaints received by Case. The complaints involved renovation deals worth $14.26 million last year, up from $7.2 million in 2008.

Case was worried that some customers were paying large deposits, only to run into multiple delays, shoddy work or contractors who disappear. Case added that it has reached out to RMCA to look into improving standards and protecting consumers from rogue contractors in an unregulated industry.

Dr Tan said: “The entry level into our industry is quite low at this point. We don’t have rules and regulations.”

He suggested a minimum paid-up capital for renovation firms – similar to how tour agencies must have $100,000 to get a travel agent licence.

He would also like for all contractors to become association members so that RMCA can intervene when there are disputes. Currently, RMCA has more than 100 members, but Dr Tan estimates the industry has 2,000 to 3,000 players.

Mr Adam Hashim, 34, project director of Bespoke Design & Interiors Singapore, agreed: “There needs to be a regulatory body that firms have to register with.”

Case executive director Loy York Jiun told The Straits Times that consumers should “always negotiate for progressive payment as the work commences, instead of paying in full up front”.

He suggested paying 10 per cent as a deposit, another 80 per cent as work is progressively completed, and the remaining 10 per cent after satisfactory completion of all work.

Last February, Case and RMCA launched a joint accreditation scheme involving 30 contractors that would safeguard consumers’ deposits.

Dr Tan and Case said consumers should research their contractors, including reading reviews from previous customers, pay progressively, and look out for accredited contractors – RMCA members, those registered with the Housing Board or the CaseTrust-RCMA joint accreditation scheme.

Among the complaints Case received last year, the renovation contractor industry ranked fourth with 1,269 complaints. The motorcar industry was ranked first with 2,916 complaints, and the beauty industry second with 1,537 complaints.

Source: Straits Times

Renovation company which owes several thousand dollars’ worth of uncompleted work not contactable: Case

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SINGAPORE – A renovation company which has received four complaints in the last two months over several thousand dollars’ worth of uncompleted work appears to no longer be contactable, according to a consumer watchdog advisory issued on Wednesday (Sept 27).

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) said that it has received five complaints against Valiancy Enterprise from Feb 1 to Sept 26.

Out of the five complaints received, four were reported in the past two months.

“These complaints were mainly about consumers paying several thousand dollars to the company, which failed to complete the renovation works by the promised date,” said Case in a statement.

It added that consumers were no longer able to contact the officers of Valiancy Enterprise. Case has also failed to contact the company.

A check by The Straits Times found that its official website appears to be down, and the listed mobile number was invalid.

Valiancy Enterprise is a registered renovation contractor under the Housing Board (HDB) website. The company includes other entities such as Valiancy and Valiancy Carpenter Enterprise, said Case.

It was suspended for a week in April last year for renovation work that caused a ceiling leak for which it accumulated three demerit points.

According to documents from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra), the company was registered on May 20, 2010 with an address in Eunos Avenue.

The renovation contractor industry has, for the past decade, been among the top 10 in terms of complaints received by Case.

Last year, the industry was the fourth on the list, with 1,269 cases lodged with Case. Most complaints were over a failure to honour contractual obligations or promises, followed by unsatisfactory services.

Case said that consumers should check that the renovation contractors they engage are registered with the HDB, and have a good track record in their transactions with consumers.

“Consumers should also note that, in this case, the paid-up capital for Valiancy Pte Ltd is $100 and are encouraged to exercise prudence when dealing with a lowly capitalised company,” added the advisory.

The association also advised that consumers pay no more than 20 per cent for an initial deposit, and to pay progressively as each step of the renovation work is completed.

They should also ensure that all verbal agreements are put down in writing and that the contractual agreement reflects accurate, itemised billing and listing of products and services, and clear project deadlines.

Customers who have unresolved disputes with the company can call Case on 6100-0315, or lodge a claim with the Small Claims Tribunal for losses/damages suffered.

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/renovation-company-which-owes-several-thousand-dollars-worth-of-uncompleted-work-no-longer?login=true&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social-media&utm_campaign=addtoany

Couple face 66 charges over $1.6 million renovation scam

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A Singaporean couple who allegedly ran a renovation scam and cheated more than 80 homeowners of a total of $1.6 million are facing 66 cheating charges each.

Aszrul Mohd Yusoff, 37, faces an additional unrelated charge for acting as a director while he was still an undischarged bankrupt. His wife, Husniyati Omar, 40, also faces 17 forgery charges and one count of criminal breach of trust.

Husniyati, who was first charged in the State Courts on 8 September, received 21 additional charges on Thursday (26 October). Aszrul, who was first charged on 6 October, was slapped with 53 additional charges on Friday (27 October). Yahoo News Singapore understands that they might face 30 more charges each.

The couple, who are behind the company Carpentry Design Works Pte Ltd, had allegedly entered into agreements with homeowners to do renovation works, which were subsequently left incomplete or not proceeded.

The couple are expected to return to court on 20 November. They have been offered bail on $150,000 each.

If convicted of cheating, they each face a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine per charge. Husniyati also faces a jail term of up to 15 years and a fine for each forgery charge.

File photo of Singapore’s currency. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
https://sg.news.yahoo.com/couple-face-66-charges-1-6million-renovation-scam-100614163.html

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