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HDB does not keep records of complaints against EC developers

National Development Minister confirms that HDB does not have records of the number of feedback and complaints received against EC developers

EC developersResponding to a parliamentary question of whether the number of complaints made by Executive Condominium (EC) buyers to HDB against their respective EC developers within the first 12 months of getting their keys has risen over the past five years, the Minister of National Development replied that any feedback received by HDB from EC buyers will be conveyed to the EC developers for the necessary follow-up.

The Minister also responded to the questions of “how does HDB facilitate disputes between EC buyers and their developers; and whether developers are blacklisted from bidding for future EC projects if they are found to have delivered poor quality in their previous developments.”

The Minister, Mr Desmond Lee, pointed out that EC buyers purchase their ECs directly from the private EC developers and enter into a Sale and Purchase (S&P) Agreement with the developers and that under the S&P Agreement, EC developers are responsible for all defects within the development during the 12-month Defects Liability Period.

“The EC developer is also contractually obliged to attend to all feedback from buyers on the design, finishing, workmanship or other concerns pertaining to the development, and to respond to the buyers accordingly. As EC buyers generally give feedback on defects directly to the EC developer, HDB does not have records of the number of feedback and complaints received. Nevertheless, when HDB receives any feedback from EC buyers, they will be conveyed to the EC developer for the necessary follow-up.”

Mr Lee added, “all EC developments are required to submit an application to be assessed under the Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS). To safeguard the interest of home buyers, BCA has introduced an additional tier under CONQUAS in Oct 2019 to impose 100% checks on all locations within all units of the development if a developer has at least one private residential development in the past 3 years with a significant number of major defects.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) in 2019 clarified that HDB home defect inspections are the responsibility of flat owners. The MND Minister responding to a parliamentary question by an MP who asked, “what are the measures to ensure that home defect inspectors are adequately trained and accredited; and wwhether BCA will introduce a licensing framework for this profession.”

In responding to the question the Minister-then said:

“BCA encourages the construction industry to improve on workmanship quality through the Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS) and Quality Mark (QM) schemes. CONQUAS assesses the structural works, architectural works, and mechanical and electrical works of a new building project. QM assesses the workmanship quality of the internal architectural finishes of every dwelling unit to ensure consistent workmanship quality.

Home buyers can use the CONQUAS and QM scores as a guide and benchmark for quality when they purchase a home. Beyond that, some home buyers also engage private sector firms to undertake home defect inspections. These home defect inspectors are not regulated or licensed by BCA. Our focus is to put in place tighter quality controls at the start of the building process. That is what the CONQUAS and QM schemes aim to achieve.”

New flat buyers can save some money from repair services if they do HDB home defect inspections right before renovating their flats. That said, some defects are more visible to the naked eyes than others. Even experts may not be able to detect some defects.

Case study on importance of HDB home defect inspections

A case in point for new HDB flat buyers,  is that of a unit at the 10th floor of Block 678C Punggol Drive. The homeowners of a relatively new Built-to-Order (BTO) flat unit were only able to enjoy their unit for about 7 months in peace, before a termite infestation turned their dream home into a nightmare. The owner, 33-year-old insurance agent Mr Wong, shared with the Chinese daily that he and his wife moved into the unit in December 2016. In July 2017, the couple discovered a termite infestation in their home.

Just one month later, the couple found that the matter was more serious than they initially thought when Mr Wong discovered several nests in the wooden skirting of his home when his wife was abroad in August 2017.

Afraid, Mr Wong paid $300 to a pest exterminator to get rid of the termites. Unfortunately, the termites returned over the next few weeks, rebuilding their nests at the wooden skirting of the flat.

Mr Wong contacted Housing Development Board (HDB) about the matter. HDB revealed that they visited the flat in September 2017 but could not locate the termite nests. Mr Wong told reporters that after a subsequent house visit and investigation at the end of November 2017, HDB officials shared with him that they suspect the termites might have come from the roof garden above the unit.

Mr Wong revealed that HDB sent officers to remove the wooden skirting as a temporary solution last week, as the situation continues to be closely monitored by officials. A HDB spokesman added that while it is the responsibility of the flat owner to maintain their home, the Board is helping to exterminate the termites out of “goodwill”.

Unfortunately, the termite issue is not the only problem Mr Wong and his wife are facing. The insurance agent revealed to reporters that they also have to deal with water leaks on rainy days, as rainwater slides down the outer walls of his flat and leaks into his flat.

He lamented to the daily: “When it’s raining, there’s water leak. When it’s not raining, there’s termites, we don’t know what to do.”

It is now clearer that HDB home defect inspections such as this will have to be undertaken by the homeowners engaging private contractors.

Defects in newly completed private non-landed property and HDB flats are not uncommon. Some years ago, residents of the Seaview Condo sued the developer, the main contractor, the architect and the electrical engineers for $32 million for all the defects in their project.

Developers of public housing projects are not without faults either. New HDB flat buyers should note that some reports say that there are 400 to 600 defects on average, in any newly TOP BTO unit.

Written by Ravi Chandran

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