All these projects were built during the period when HDB had to ramp up housing construction due to no planning. Our government scholars only look at the numbers and to them, what matters was the completion of 204,461 public and private homes before the next election. How they go about it does not matter. Neither does the quality of workmanship.
Everybody knows, maybe except the PAP, that skilled labour is inelastic. Can the government confirm only skilled labour from third world countries are constructing our first world housing? Or maybe they are just general workers taught to lay tiles and do plumbing work in a 1 day WDA course? The problems encountered by new homeowners were foreseeable may just be the tip of the iceberg. Why?
Issues with house renovation may show up only years later. A friend had lived in Toa Payoh and before moving out, tiles had started to pop off after 4 years. The HDB should be able to confirm this. One unit in Woodlands had it worse with 10 tiles popping off a wall after 10 years! How the cement, sand and water are mixed is important and only a skillful worker can do this correctly. The possibly worst scenario was was highlighted on TRS in September last year.
MND must not totally rely on contractors to provide ‘skilled’ manpower as HDB owners will encounter unnecessary problems in future.
I had a similar issue with shoddy workmanship 4 years ago. Since I was renting a flat nearby, I had the opportunity to learn about renovation every other day. And fortunately I was there!
What shocked me was workers had prior instructions and worked without any supervision nor was there any inspection of their work. My designer/contractor only awaited feedback/complaint. It was frustrating to have to inform them about what was happening and basically I paid them $52,000 to trouble shoot for them. The final straw was the handover – the designer did not even bother to show up or conduct any pre handover inspection although I needed my flat urgently.
Handover means handing over all their stuff with stains all over the floor.
Carpentry work had tens of scratches.
Simple silicone job sub standard…. or … simply forgot?
Every screw did not have any threading after the ‘assistant plumber’ misused the cordless driver. It appeared to be his first time using the tool.
The worst was prevented when the contractor wanted to install the false ceiling which covered a sagging water pipe. I had been informing my designer for weeks to have it fixed but they just could not be bothered. Once the false ceiling was up, it would have been hidden. Imagine if a leak occurred months/years later, my bill would be in the thousands. An issue like this could be prevented.
I was certain of all the above incidents because I was present at the site. On some occasions, I even bought food for the workers. The renovation was supposed to have taken 6 weeks but took 4 months (even though overlapped CNY, it was still too long because priority given to other work sites resulted in longer delays). Similar to the experience of some premium HDB flat owners, the rectified work had to be re rectified!
There are numerous instances of shoddy workmanship but one thing for certain, they are due to:
– unskilled labour
– no supervision and no QC
Renovation is all about cutting costs and padding their profits with minimum labour. This is standard hit-and-run practice with almost all contractors, including HDB’s.
There was a lot of frustration and many of the issues could have been prevented if a qualified supervisor or the designer had been on site occasionally. So what are we paying for?
I had no choice but to take action against the designer. I filed a complaint with CASE which directed me to the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT). The SCT is an office with a Referee (Judge) who will listen to the evidence. A representative from HDB must attend the hearing. Evidence of shoddy workmanship should be presented in an objective manner.
The process of filing a claim is not that complicated. By doing so, the HDB contractor will be forced to take the issue seriously. It is important to have all the relevant documents, especially photos, to support the claim. I recovered $3,500 from my designer.
HDB should not continue to allow unnecessary delays and cause more frustration to owners. Owners paid a premium and HDB must deliver quality finishes. Owners should take legal action now as this will also put the onus on HDB to prevent any recurrence.
Why have rectification works been delayed? To tend to the cases HDB’s shoddy workmanship would mean transferring workers from other sites. This will delay the completion of new projects and what matters most to contractors is of course profit.
The reality is the issue of defects and shoddy workmanship will not be resolved expeditiously because money has already been paid by buyers. It was also reported on social media “Defects reported in BTO flats constructed by Soilbuild – firm linked to PAP grassroots”. Since 30% of the units constructed by Soilbuild have filed complaints, will HDB take remedial action against its contractor? The right course of action for the HDB is to compensate owners by reducing the final payment to Soilbuild.
Affected owners should know their rights and taking legal action against the HDB (flat bought from HDB, let them ensure rectification is carried out to your satisfaction) may be the only recourse. Without legal action, one should not expect contractors to take rectification work (no profit) seriously.