Voicing their fears on Facebook

Voicing their fears on Facebook
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Concerned flat owners have taken to Facebook to express anxieties about on-going Build-To-Order (BTO) flat defects.

Private Facebook groups were set up for owners of new BTO projects to connect but uneasiness, instead of excitement, is dominating the talk.

Flat owner Kathleen Dragon, who is in the Facebook group for a Toa Payoh BTO project, told The New Paper there are already reminders to be vigilant when checking for defects in the flat. Her four-room flat is expected to be completed in 2017.

Ms Dragon, 26, said: "The general sentiment is that everyone is feeling worried and expecting this (slew of problems) to happen (to their flats).

"This is especially so as our general contractor is the same one for the recent executive condominium (EC) that had a problem."

The fashion and marketing student at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts was referring to QingJian Realty, the contractor for RiverParc Residence.

Ms Dragon conceded that she is not expecting a 100 per cent perfect flat. She attributes her mindset to her working experience in the retail industry prior to her studies.

"When you have a bag of clothing, maybe five to 10 per cent will be defective. Even Chanel has made defective bags.

"The only difference is for a defective jacket, you can return it to the manufacturer. But how do you return a flat?

"The only thing you should expect is for the problems to be rectified," Ms Dragon said.

Another BTO flat owner, Ms Sarah Wang, 27, used to count down to the day she is to move into her new place - her first big-ticket purchase - with her fiance.

Now, she has a sense of foreboding that overrides the anticipation of getting her new home.

With all the bad news on defects and poor finishing in new BTO and Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) projects, she is hoping her new home does not make the news for the wrong reasons.

DBSS project Pasir Ris One, for instance, had corridors that were too narrow for comfort.

Trivelis, another DBSS project in Clementi, was plagued with problems such as shattered glass panels and rusty dish holders.

Earlier this month, residents of EC RiverParc Residence in Punggol complained of rusty stairs and water seepage on rainy days. Others were plagued with problems like poor fittings and finishes.

Ms Wang's four-room flat in the north is expected to be ready in two years.

She said: "We were looking forward to building our first home together, but the defects we read about make us worry about the number of things we have to deal with."

Ms Wang feels that HDB should keep a tighter watch when it comes to quality control of each unit's workmanship.

"Owners should not be burdened with the responsibility of spotting defects in what is supposed to be a new flat," she said.

No compromise

In Parliament last week, the Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee assured the House that there was no compromise in flat quality despite a significant ramping up in the BTO programme over the last four years.

He had revealed in Parliament that an average of a third of all new residents approach the Building Service Centre for assistance with defects in BTO flats after collecting their keys.

The vast majority of defects reported are surface imperfections such as hairline cracks on walls, scratches on timber floors or uneven tile joints, he added.

Mr Lee was responding to questions from Members of Parliament on defects in BTO flats.

Like others, Ms Wang, who works in the healthcare industry, was not convinced by his explanation.

"I will be upset to see even a scratch on our floor. For something that we have painstakingly saved up for, I expect that it will be completed with close to zero flaws as far as possible," she said.

And she is not alone.

From looking forward to the completion of her Hougang BTO in 2017, Ms Christianne Ang, 26, said she is now fervently hoping that she will not be a victim of the flat defects.

"If it is a minor defect, it won't be too bad as long as I can get the contractor to fix it up... I understand that some defects like cracks on walls are common and do not pose a big problem, said Ms Ang, who declined to reveal her occupation.

"But water seepage and sewage stench are not tolerable. They definitely have to be resolved by HDB."

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