Tag Archives: Renovation Contractors

New accreditation for renovation businesses

A new voluntary accreditation scheme was recently launched to give homeowners more assurance when securing the services of renovation contractors, reported The Straits Times.

The CaseTrust-RCMA joint accreditation scheme was developed by the Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association (RCMA) and the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) following an agreement signed in August 2014.

But unlike the previous CaseTrust scheme, the new one also protects the deposits of homeowners in the event the contractor disappears or closes shop.

Both schemes require firms to have proper and clear dispute-resolution mechanisms, on-site workmanship assessment, trained staff and clear policies on fees and refunds.

Five renovation contractors have already been accredited under the new scheme, while 12 are still in the process of being accredited.

“It gives customers confidence in us, and it also helps us to really bring up our standard,” said Rezt and Relax Interior Executive Director Wilson Teh.

Other firms that were accredited are Ciseern by Designer Furnishings, Add Space Design, Vegas Interior Design and Sky Creation Design.

The CaseTrust-RCMA accredited firms should offer a deposit performance bond which covers the deposits of customers – up to 20 percent of the contract value, if the contractor goes bust and leaves the renovation works unfinished or cannot be contacted for 30 days. The firms are also required to use a CaseTrust Standard Renovation Contract in order to ensure cost accountability and transparency.

The contractor industry is one of the top 10 industries in which Case receives the most number of complaints.

“For consumers who want peace of mind, I urge you to consider supporting businesses which have taken this additional step of being CaseTrust accredited and have committed themselves to fair trading practices,” said Case President Lim Biow Chuan.

Fewer renovation complaints in 2014

Complaints against renovation contractors and firms fell from 1,779 cases in 2013 to 1,462 last year even as more new flats were built, revealed the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and reported in the media.

The number of cases taken up by the association also decreased from 269 in 2012 to 242 in 2014.

Industry players pointed to the slowing resale flat market and increasingly cautious customers as possible reasons for the decline.

“The slowdown in the property market due to various policy measures and loan curbs may have affected the home renovation industry in Singapore, as fewer consumers buy and renovate their homes,” noted Case executive director Seah Seng Choon.

In agreement, Sky Tan, vice-president of the Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association (RCMA), said while more Build-to-Order (BTO) flats were constructed in recent years, these flats do not generally require as much renovation as resale flats.

“Most things are already fitted in a BTO. The scope of work is much less,” revealed Dr Tan, who also serves as chief executive of interior design and renovation company Sky Creation.

In fact, homeowners today are more careful when it comes to renovations.

“They go on websites, forums, social media to find out more about contractors,” shared Dr Tan.

Education efforts by Case may have also made consumers savvier, stated Seah.

However, there are still “some black sheep out there who cheat customers”, added Dean Lim, director of interior design firm Ciseern.

Case received 438 renovation complaints between January and April this year.

To avoid renovation disputes, industry players suggest requesting itemised billing, putting verbal agreements in writing, having realistic expectations as well as hiring contractors that are accredited under Case Trust.

“Customers should do their checks,” said Lim. “Contractors and interior designers should also undergo training on how to better run their businesses.”