Renovation scheme gives home owners extra assurance

A new voluntary accreditation scheme was launched yesterday to give home owners extra assurance when hiring renovation contractors.

Unlike the existing CaseTrust scheme, which will continue to operate, the new CaseTrust-RCMA joint accreditation scheme also protects home owners' deposits if the contractor closes or disappears.

Both the existing and new schemes require firms to have clear and proper dispute-resolution mechanisms, trained staff, clear policies on fees and refunds, and on-site workmanship assessment.

Following a Memorandum of Understanding signed in August 2014, the new scheme was developed by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and the Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association (RCMA).

Yesterday, five renovation contractors were the first to be accredited under the new scheme.

"It gives customers confidence in us, and it also helps us to really bring up our standard," said Mr Wilson Teh, executive director of Rezt and Relax Interior. The others were Add Space Design, Ciseern by Designer Furnishings, Sky Creation Design, and Vegas Interior Design. Another 12 are in the process of being accredited.

CaseTrust-RCMA accredited firms must offer a deposit performance bond that covers customers' deposits - up to 20 per cent of the total contract value - if the contractor leaves work unfinished and goes bust or is uncontactable for 30 days. Firms must also use a CaseTrust Standard Renovation Contract to ensure cost transparency and accountability.

Also launched yesterday was the 2016 Singapore Renovation Guide Book, which tells consumers what to consider when hiring a contractor. The guidebook will be available free at HDB branches and town council offices after Chinese New Year.

The contractor industry is among the top 10 industries for which Case receives the most complaints, with more than 1,400 each year since 2011.

"For consumers who want peace of mind, I urge you to consider supporting businesses which have taken this additional step of being CaseTrust accredited and have committed themselves to fair trading practices," said Case president Lim Biow Chuan.

He also urged firms to come on board. "If you're serious about being in the business, this is how you can stand out from the competition, as a more responsible contractor."

This article was first published on February 7, 2016.
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