The Renovation Nightmares Of 2023 And How to Prevent Them In 2024

December 27, 2023

The Renovation Nightmares Of 2023 And How to Prevent Them In 2024

In 2023, home renovations were a nightmare for many Singaporeans, with CASE reporting a whopping 631 reported cases in the first half alone. Homeowners faced issues like endless project delays, unclear payment plans, and contractors disappearing mid-job among many other problems. As we wrap up on 2023, let us look back on some of these reported cases, the important lessons we can learn, so that 2024 can be a year of dreams instead of nightmares!

Before we begin, we would like to preface that, while you may think “I’ll never fall for something like this”, or “I knew this was coming” when going through these cases, no one wants a renovation to go awry.  We do not blame the people involved in these cases, and they certainly do not deserve the misfortune that befell upon them, as they believed that their trust was in the right place!

Contractor goes MIA without completing flat renovation

In May, one unfortunate homeowner's renovation turned into a nightmare when they paid 80% upfront, expecting a timely transformation. However, the project faced persistent delays, and communication with the contractor dwindled until they eventually vanished into thin air. When the family went to visit the flat that was in progress, they found that barely any work was done in the house.

This homeowner, left in the lurch with her family of 8, discovered they were not alone in falling prey to this disappearing act, highlighting a distressing trend that such perpetrators are able to ruin multiple lives while avoiding authorities.

How It Could Have Been Avoided

Never Pay a Huge Sum Upfront

To prevent falling victim to such renovation nightmares, it is crucial to reconsider payment practices. No matter how much you trust an interior designer (ID), even if they are your friend, or are able to connect with you on a personal level, never, ever pay a large sum upfront for your renovation work. Instead, opt for a structured payment approach, releasing funds only upon the completion of specific milestones. A recommended breakdown involves 10-20% upon project confirmation, 20-40% on a progressive payment basis tied to completed stages of the renovation, and the final 10% upon satisfactory project completion and issue rectification. If there is an ID, who tells you otherwise or refuses to start work before a huge sum is paid, maybe it’s time you look for someone else.

Establish a Formal Contract

Based on the homeowner’s conversation with her contractor on Whatsapp, it is uncertain if a formal contract even existed in the first place. The establishment of a formal contract detailing the scope of work, timelines, and payment terms can save you from ambiguity, and allow you to claim compensation from the ID or contractor in case of delays or inconveniences. 

Before paying for anything, be sure to acquire and sign off an official contract with terms and conditions, warranty, lead-time, and other clauses that states clearly what the ID will be providing.

Due Diligence

Performing thorough research on the contractor before engagement could have been a game-changer for this family–they would have been able to discover the multiple police reports, or find victims of this ‘contractor’ earlier, saving them from this entire ordeal. Always be sure to ask for references prior to engaging an ID or contractor, and have a clear understanding of their track record.

Renovation drags and are unsatisfactory

In April, a TikTok user shared how their renovation turned into a mess with sloppy paintwork, causing drips all over the house. The contractor refused to fix it, leaving the homeowner to clean up the mess herself. Adding to the chaos, there was terrible communication within the company, with the blame game between the interior designer, project manager, and business manager. To make matters worse, the renovation dragged on for eight months because people kept quitting the project. It was a frustrating and disappointing experience for the homeowner.

How It Could Have Been Avoided

Unfortunately, even if you use a legitimate contractor or ID, nightmares can still become a reality. In this case, the homeowners did their due diligence and the ID company had a proven track record, so they assumed that the renovation work would be of a higher standard.

Clear Payment Milestones and Contract Terms

To steer clear of such renovation headaches, it's essential to implement preventive measures. First and foremost, ensure that your contract allows you to withhold payment until all defects are rectified. This ensures that you have leverage to address any issues before settling the bill. Additionally, when drafting a contract, include specific clauses to address scenarios where the interior designer (ID) leaves the project unexpectedly.  Similarly to the first case, having a contract with clear terms in place for such situations helps manage expectations and provides a roadmap for how to proceed in the event of staff turnover, minimising disruptions and potential conflicts throughout the renovation process.

Get To Know The Management Team

If there are multiple parties in a company to liaise with in one renovation project, be sure to understand who is responsible for which tasks in their project, be clear of their roles and know who to look for before renovation starts, so as to prevent the blame game from happening. For firms that have multiple sales ID, be sure to check with them who is the spokesperson or management that they can look for in case of any disputes or issues that arise during the renovation. As sometimes the higher authority is unaware of the renovation situation, and by the time they were notified, the problem might have incurred losses, or the sales ID might have already left the company and left them with an awful mess.

Man allegedly linked to renovation scams involving $47k is handed 3 cheating charges

While this case did not happen in 2023, we’re glad that the victims involved in this case received some justice this year. In a sequence of renovation scams in 2022, a man deceived three individuals who collectively handed over a total of $47,000. He was accused of going MIA after receiving money for the renovations. 

How it Could Have Been Avoided

Never Transfer Money Without Establishing a Contract

Similarly, it’s crucial not to transfer money without a proper contract in place; it's a big red flag if anyone asks you to do so. A formal contract is not just a formality, it is a legal requirement that also establishes clear rules and expectations. Avoid transferring funds without one to protect yourself from potential scams and ensure a transparent and secure renovation process.

Interior Design Contractor Fails To Complete HDB Renovation, Owes Couple Over S$130K

Another homeowner faced a nightmare when, despite moving out in anticipation of a renovation, nothing happened for a prolonged 2-3 months. Despite making multiple payments, there was still no progress. The situation took a darker turn as it became apparent that the renovation firm was grappling with financial difficulties, leading to the misappropriation of funds. This unfortunate turn of events left the homeowner in a state of frustration and financial uncertainty, highlighting the risks of engaging with a company facing financial turmoil.

How it Could be Avoided

We know we’ve been droning on and on about having contracts in place, and in this last case study, we can finally see the merits of having one. The victim here a contract in place which allowed him to make legitimate claims to the money he paid.

Check Where You Transfer Your Money

The lesson here for homeowners is to double-check the account details before making payments. If you're dealing with a company, make sure you're paying into their business account, not a personal one. This helps prevent financial mishaps and ensures you have a clear paper trail if any issues arise during the renovation.

ID Companies Should Have a Clear SOP

Interior designers can learn from this case study and avoid similar problems by having clear rules (SOPs) to handle funds properly. Having transparent processes in place helps maintain financial integrity and builds trust with clients. Additionally, if you’re a budding ID, as with any other job, if the company can't pay you, it's a sign to consider leaving. This way, you protect yourself from any entanglement with the company's finances.

Avoid Renovation Nightmares with HomePay

The nightmares of 2023 and years past was what prompted us to launch HomePay this year– to make these renovation nightmares a thing of the past. With HomePay, we serve as a trusted third party to secure your renovation funds. When you pay with HomePay, your money is held in an MAS-approved wallet, only released when certain milestones are met. This means that if anything goes wrong, your money is easily recoverable. The use of payment tranches in our app also ensures that the right payments are made at the right time, so you’ll never be paying blindly. HomePay also ensures reliability by subjecting companies to a rigorous screening process, guaranteeing that you're working with trustworthy professionals who won't deceive or disappoint.

At HomePay, we endeavour to make renovation nightmares a thing of the past, creating a trustworthy, seamless and fun renovation process for all. Choose HomePay for your renovation payments, and worry only about making your dream home a reality.