No compromise in quality despite increase in BTO flats: MND

Despite a significant ramping up in the Build-To-Order (BTO) programme over the last four years, the quality of the flats has not been compromised, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said in Parliament on Monday (Jul 13).

Responding to questions from several MPs on defects in BTO flats, Mr Lee said that an average of one-third of all new residents approach the Building Service Centre for assistance with defects after collecting their keys.

About 25 per cent of these requests for assistance relate to issues such as low water pressure due to compliance with water saving measures, as well as paint stains that need to be cleaned, he said. The majority of the other requests are because of surface imperfections such as hairline cracks on walls, scratches on timber floor, or uneven tile joints, he said, adding that the number of defects reported has not changed significantly.

Citing the Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS) score, an indicator by the Building and Construction Authority which measures the quality of buildings, Mr Lee said the quality of BTO flats has improved from a score of 79 in 2003 to 89 in 2014.

“Such imperfections are mostly within acceptable industry norms and these are also common in private developments. They can and should be rectified quickly by the contractors, and do not affect the structural integrity or safety of the building.”

There is a “system of checks” in place to ensure that BTO flats are free of major defects, Mr Lee said.

“However, due to the high dependency on workmanship of individual workers, we can expect that there will be some defects,” he said. “Sometimes, this is due to differences in the understanding of what constitutes a defect. For example, some owners have given feedback on colour inconsistencies for floors with timber finishes. As timber is a natural product, it is not possible to achieve a perfectly homogenous look.”

Mr Lee said that the Housing and Development Board (HDB) has “zero tolerance” for defects which may compromise structural or safety standards, or which deviate significantly from what has been promised to buyers.

LEGAL RECOURSE

On the recent complaints of defects in various projects under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS), Mr Lee said that developers are contractually obliged to build the units in a “good and workman-like manner”.

“DBSS projects are developed by different private developers, who may offer varying fixtures and finishes for their project. The feedback on the quality of finishes would differ from project to project,” he said.

Nonetheless, residents who face issues with the quality of the flats may report them to the Building Service Centre managed by the developer during the Defects Liability Period, Mr Lee said. If the developer fails to address them, the buyers will have legal recourse against the developer as provided for under the Sales and Purchase Agreement.

Reports of unhappiness over defects in DBSS projects such as Trivelis in Clementi and Centrale 8 in Tampines have emerged in the past two months.

A special taskforce, which Education Minister and MP for Tampines GRC Heng Swee Keat will oversee, has also been formed to look into the complaints of residents living in the Centrale 8 project.

Responding to questions from MPs including opposition leader Low Thia Khiang on HDB’s role in the DBBS projects, Mr Lee said the HDB sets the broad parameters, within which the private developers are given the flexibility to build and sell.

“And because of that it (the developer) takes the responsibility for its private development work … the sales and purchase is in black and white and it is with the residents and the developer,” said Mr Lee.

“But having said that, that is not to say that the HDB entirely takes no responsibility at all, does not do anything at all. That is clearly not the experience,” he added.

Mr Lee cited how HDB, despite not being a party to the agreement, had followed up on concerns from residents living in the Trivelis project with the developer and the advisers to reach a resolution.

“So for example in Trivelis, it’s public knowledge that the developer has made an offer to residents,” he said.

Mr Lee said the HDB had also met with DBSS developers during the design stage to share the agency’s experiences from DBSS projects, and also to provide feedback in areas such as safety, security, durability, civil and structural design considerations.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 13 Jul 2015

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