Renovating your HDB flat or private property in 2020? Here are 5 things homeowners need to know

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Whether you plan to renovate a resale property you bought or are collecting your new key from HDB (which has restarted from June 2, 2020) or your private property developer in 2020, here’s a summary of the key restrictions and limitations you need to be aware of amid the evolving Covid-19 situation and safe distancing measures.

These updates are accurate at the time of writing, and incorporates the latest announcement by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) on June 13, 2020.

1. Previously-suspended home renovations can proceed from 15 June 2020

When the circuit breaker began in Singapore, some 19,000 home renovation projects that were in various stages of completion had to be suspended abruptly, with only a very small minority of critical renovations being allowed to continue.

This has led to much worry and inconvenience for many homeowners.

With the latest announcement, previously suspended renovation projects that were in limbo can now proceed.

2. Applications for new renovation projects can be made from 15 June 2020

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Even though Minister for National Development and Co-Chair of the Multi-Ministry Taskforce on Covid-19 Lawrence Wong previously said that renovation works will resume in two phases, with priority given to renovation projects that were disrupted, homeowners will be glad to know that this is no longer the case.

Applications to commence new renovation projects can be submitted from June 15, 2020, and approvals can be received as soon as within two days, provided everything is in order.

3. Even if your renovation project is approved, your contractor might not be

According to BCA, companies that perform renovation works utilising Construction Work Permit and S-Pass Holders need to seek approval to resume work from BCA, which is approving on behalf of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).

Companies that employ only Singaporeans and PRs can begin work, provided they make a declaration to MTI that the renovation works are not performed within construction sites, and that the work carried out does not involve Construction Work Permit and S-Pass Holders.

Because of this, while renovation projects have been given the green light to go ahead in general from June 15, 2020, specific projects might be held up until their contractors are cleared to commence work.

4. Even if your renovation project and contractor is approved, progress could be hampered by manpower constraints

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According to a Straits Times report, about 80 per cent of workers in the renovation industry are Malaysians, many of whom are stuck in Malaysia due to the country’s initial Movement Control Order (MCO), and current Recovery Movement Control Order, which still bans international travel, and is expected to last till August 31, 2020.

Furthermore, a large number of foreign workers on S-Pass or Work Permits might be living in dormitories that have been declared as gazetted isolation areas and can only resume work once mandatory swab testing is done.

As a result, even though your renovation project and contractor might have received approval to start work, actual work might be slower to start, if at all, especially considering the piling backlog of projects that have accumulated since the circuit breaker began more than two months ago.

5. Renovation works can still be suspended if safe distancing measures not adhered to

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BCA has reminded companies that all renovation works must comply with BCA’s COVID-Safe Workforce and COVID-Safe Worker Accommodation and Transport criteria, as well as the Ministry of Manpower’s Safe Management Measures at workplaces.

These measures include employers establishing a system to track the daily health status of workers, having workers download the TraceTogether app, and sending Construction Work Permit and S-Pass Holders for the COVID-Safe Training for Workers course.

Any breach of these safe distancing measures can result in stop work orders, work pass revocation, and/or fines, which can result in further delays to renovations.

Renovating during Covid-19 is fraught with uncertainties

Managing a home renovation during normal situations is challenging enough, with the need to carefully manage timelines of various contractors, delivery of supplies and performing certain works (like hacking) within certain windows of time during which permits were grants.

While theoretically renovations can now resume, the lack of workers and supplies is likely to continue to hamper renovation projects and with this in mind, homeowners can (and should) expect further delays.

This article was first published in Dollars and Sense.