Qanvast Guide: How To Not Get Cheated By Contractors
The journey in creating your dream home can potentially be a nightmare if you have engaged a wrong home professional. We have heard horror stories from homeowners on how the renovation jobs were abandoned, on shoddy workmanship, and contractors magically disappeared after receiving the monies.
"Last year, there were 1,779 complaints, up from 1,532 in 2012 and 1,488 the year before. Most of the complaints centred on unsatisfactory services and failure to honour contractual agreements." - MyPaper
If you are looking to engage a contractor to do up your place, take a look at this quick guide on what you should do to avoid getting cheated by contractors.
1. Know The Differences Between An Interior Designer And A Contractor
First things first, understand the differences between the two types of home professionals. While both work hand in hand for homeowners, the type of quality and services and price differs. Similarly, like how you would compare a chef to a cook, and a hairstylist to a barber.
An interior designer listens to the needs and tries to understand the lifestyle of their clients, paying attention to details such as "Who will be staying in the house?”, "Will that be safe for the children?”, to even questions like "Where can I place the onions and potatoes?". They also tend to work systematically, from sketching to rendering and then to the final build-up.
A contractor sells their products and services in accordance to what they have or can do. However good a contractor one might be, most will not delve into detailed space planning, conceptualising themes and sourcing for alternative ideas. Even if some do, homeowners still have another obstacle to tackle themselves - the decor. This is where interior designers cover it all and have the knowledge and creativity to help homeowners realise their dream homes.
2. Research Is Important!
Homeowners should always do their own research and be familiar with the characteristics of the materials. There is a minority who will misquote by raising prices on costlier materials or make false proclamations on the materials.
If homeowners are not familiar with any kind of renovation works, it will be hard for them to tell the shoddy works until they have lived in the house itself. It is akin to buying a leathered lambskin tote bag only to find out it’s actually PVC leather.
To minimise such incidents, request to go to the showroom or to a home project that is 90% completed to better gauge the workmanship before you commit to the firm. Once committed, make regular visits to your house during the renovation. Scrutinise all areas and ensure the quality you get is as what the hired firm has promised. During the renovation, keep asking the contractor questions to ensure that they know what they are doing. You might even pick a tip or two from them!
3. Opt For Progressive Payments
Insist on a progressive payment plan with the hired firm. For instance, most firms take a 25% deposit payment upon commencement of renovation works and the remaining 75% of payment should be distributed only after certain works have been done.
Always ensure that your cheque is issued to the firm rather than the contractor you are working with.
4. Perform Background Checks
- Check if the firm is registered with ACRA.
- Check if the firm has a registered office address or a showroom. It will be harder for companies with a showroom to shut down their business as and when they want to.
- Check through their names and profiles on social media platforms, forums and websites or check them for any bankruptcy suits.
- Seek reviews and feedbacks from previous clients and view their completed works before committing.
Engaging a contractor that is under the HDB Registered Renovation Contractors' Scheme (RRCS) is not an accreditation based on workmanship or quality. It is an assurance. In fact, not all firms see the need to be registered as they are more eager for other accreditations.
As long as the firm has good business reputation, good rapport with you and gives you a good impression, there is no harm in engaging them.
5. Document Down All Communications
Play it safe and ensure all communications between the involved coordinators are documented down in black and white.
In times of claims, you will have evidence to prove your points. For example, for a claim for delays on the completion of the job, a timeline should have been stated on the contractual agreement.
For claims on poor workmanship or unfinished works, homeowners must be prepared to allow a mediation session organised by the Small Claims Tribunal, in which it usually ends up in either a partial refund on unfinished items or a time frame for the alleged contractor to finish or improvise the said job.
You can lodge a report to the renovation accreditation scheme under CaseTrust, the consumer watchdog's accreditation arm.
The S$50,000 Qanvast Guarantee
Are you looking for interior firms to renovate your place? We can recommend 5 suitable firms for you. Furthermore, all recommendations provided by Qanvast will be covered under the Qanvast Guarantee. The guarantee covers 50% of your contract value, up to S$50,000. Read more about the scheme here.
Article contributed by Third Avenue, Fatema Design Studio, and Aart Boxx Interior.