Renovation: It’s All a Scam…Or not?

This is the one question that comes to the mind immediately when you begin looking for a renovation contractor. The constant flurries of scam cases in Singapore have not ceased much, even with the presence of firmly instilled law and top-notch police forces – and this is no exception for renovation scam cases. One such occasion has a convincing interior designer scamming $100,000 over 10 cases before disappearing; another case consists of the contractor requesting and receiving full payment, before the family finds out that the company’s store was up for rent; and another renovation firm received 33 complaints on unfinished renovation works or works that were not even started on.

Credit: Straits Time
Credit: Singapore Police Force

To begin with, there was never an officially sanctioned regulation for renovation firms, contractors or designers – and the bar has never really been set by the authorities. This loophole leads to a large grey area in the industry of renovating, furnishing and designing homes. “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). (Read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/case-sounds-alarm-over-rising-spend-on-renovation-packages-9166288)

Bedok renovation company disappears and leaves 10 families who had made full payment

Now laden with doubt, suspicion and wariness, you may ask, “So what do I have to look for to avoid being scammed by such fibbers and duplicitous companies?”

1. Location

The first warning sign pops out as soon as the renovation package sounds too good to be true. Low quotations, fast and efficient work, high quality materials – all that for half price of the industry norm? It pays to research more on the company you are about to sign the contract with. Look for multiple online reviews and compare quotations from other companies to familiarize yourself with the market rate. Make sure to visit the company at their physical location – and observe how operations are held within the office. Do they appear unorganized and unruly? Is the office a permanent and genuine workplace?

2. Research

As mentioned above, be sure to check out the contractor’s business online for reviews from other customers. You can also check if the contractor is hosting a legitimate business by examining if they are registered under the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).

If you are renovating a HDB flat, you can also check if the renovation contractor is a HDB Registered Renovation Contractor. These contractors who are registered under the HDB Registered Renovation Contractors’ scheme (RRCS) are aware of the HDB’s requirements when they carry out renovation works and to protect the structural integrity of the building.

In all cases of engaging renovation works, always be mindful to fully check out the business before signing the papers with your contractor.

3. Payment

Most contractors will request for an initial deposit before renovation work is launched. However, do be wary if the contractor requests for upfront full payment (or more than even 20% or 30% of the full payment) because “you are already paying quite little for the renovation works”. Many people have been scammed this way by paying a large sum of money to their contractors before work even began. You should be able to ask for progressive payment instead of paying full up front. A good example of progressive payment would be around:

10% payment for deposit

40% to 45% payment for commencement of work

40% to 45% payment when the renovation is around 2/3 completed, or when carpentry begins

5%-10% payment upon completion of work

Most reasonable renovation contractors would be able to agree to such terms. Otherwise, you should not find yourself held at your contractor’s mercy

credit: mothership.sg

4. Paperwork, Contracts and Site-Visiting

When signing the renovation contract, make sure to look out for the payment terms (how do you pay? When do you pay?), the renovation plans and schedule (like a timeline for the renovation). Other things to look out for would be the cost of renovations, penalties for contract termination, and agreements on how to handle unpredicted or unforeseen circumstances. Look out for costs that may not be included within the contract. Make sure that you always have a physical or digital copy of what was agreed on. Always add in any changes made during the renovation process to the contract.

You can ask to visit ongoing sites under renovation before signing your name on the contract. Scammers are most likely not to have concrete, proper evidence of renovation work going on, and might not have proper offices or setups as well. Make sure that your contractor is genuine before making your final decision.

credit: independent.sg

5. CASE-RMCA Accredited Scheme

CaseTrust is the accreditation arm of the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE).  CASE is a non-profit, non-governmental group that is dedicated towards shielding consumers’ interest through information and education, and they promote an environment of fair and ethical trade practices. RCMA is the Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association, and they are a non-profit organization as well, dedicated to promoting the industry, and aims to improve the quality and standards of construction and materials supply sector in Singapore.

You may have, or may not have heard of this scheme before, but this scheme is an essential security measure for anyone looking to renovate their homes, The CASE-RCMA accredited scheme, brought up by the joint partnership of CaseTrust and RCMA, requires an accredited business to protect a customer’s deposits through the purchase of a deposit performance bond. This bond will safeguard deposits against closure, winding up and/or liquidation. (Read more at https://www.casetrust.org.sg/accreditation-detail.aspx?id=4)

This joint scheme also uses a CaseTrust Standard Renovation Contract, which then ensures cost transparency and accountability for listed deliverables in a renovation project. This, in most cases, will meet the demands of a modern discerning consumer.

Renovation contractors who qualify to obtain this accreditation will be able to display a CaseTrust – RCMA logo on their shop fronts and marketing materials as an outward sign of their commitment to fair trading.

Principally speaking, the concept is that you would be eligible for compensation, or at least get back your deposits if the company does not keep to the contract. This provides a greater peace of mind for homeowners looking for renovation firms if they are more afraid of being scammed or cheated.

Feeling Inspired yet?

If you are a homeowner aspiring to renovate your house in the near future, you may have already gathered some quotations from various renovation firms, chosen some interior designs, or already begun to consider your final choice.

Before you conclude, meet Inspire ID Group – a team consisting of an elite group of experienced senior designers and skilled crafts. This company is one of the few renovation companies in Singapore to be accredited under CaseTrust-RCMA scheme. They have been recognized with several awards over the past few years, such as the Promising SME 500 Award and Industry Star Award in 2014, along with accreditations from:

  • Singapore Top Business Achiever Award 2017
  • Member of RCMA (Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association)
  • ISO 9001: 2008
  • BizSafe Level 3
  • Nippon Paint Designers of Choice
  • HDB Registered Renovation Contractor
  • Design Excellence Award 2014
  • Industry STAR 2014
  • Promising SME 500 2014
  • Asia Excellence Award 2013

Russel Chin, the founder of Inspire ID group, believes in being passionate for his work and his clients. After being in the interior design industry for such a long time, he can thoroughly empathize with the needs of different homeowners, and takes time getting to know his clients to find the best suited design for each home.

The Big Event 

On 23rd and 24th of June 2018, Inspire ID Group will be holding a renovation event from 11am to 8pm at their showrooms. Their main branch is at 292 Balestier Road (S)329733, and the west branch will be at 18 Boon Lay Way, Tradehub 21, #01-115 (S)609966.

During this roadshow, you can get quotations and advices from their veteran designers. Signing up for their packages will entitle you to transparent pricing, direct cashback with lifetime warranty for the work done. You are also promised with guaranteed workmanship and 100% deposit money back guarantee. These schemes are built to protect both homeowners and the labors, ensuring that both sides are fully satisfied with the work completed. Paying this roadshow a visit would be a bonus for you – you might be able to negotiate yourself a reasonable deal with excellent workmanship for your next renovation.

RSVP: http://bit.ly/idinspirevent

Conclusion 

In the very end, hiring help for renovation and interior designs is always a tricky process to deal with. The best thing would be to remember that, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Looking for the cheapest deal in town is never a good way to start building your dream home. Always look out for legitimate renovation firms, and finally, always keep an eye out for scammers – You don’t want to be glorified on the headlines of the news as the latest victim of renovation scammers.

Source Links:

http://theindependent.sg/interior-design-contractor-scammed-100000-over-10-cases-and-disappeared/

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/housing/33-complaints-against-renovation-firm

https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/flat-owners-limbo-after-renovation-deal-goes-awry

https://www.renonation.sg/lessons-to-learn-from-three-renovation-scams-singapore/