Common Disputes between Residential Contractors and Homeowners in Singapore

Disputes between contractors and homeowners may arise over renovation defects and shoddy workmanship. The last thing anyone wants to do during a renovation is pursued legal action against a bad contractor. Whether it’s unfinished work or a disagreement over payment terms or another difficult scenario. It is certainly a rough experience to go through.

In Singapore, residential contractors and homeowners often encounter disputes, including:

1. Payment disputes

Often project changes implemented during the renovation will add to the total project cost and this can easily cause disagreements. Similarly, contractors and homeowners can’t predict the upcoming possible issue such as issues behind walls, old pipes, or even existing electrical wiring. This is why both parties need to communicate well during the renovation progress.

2. No Warranty

All Interior Designers have specific warranty periods, however, contractors may not have them. Before signing any contracts, it is best to clarify so in the situation of if any defects that are in the post-renovation… it’s better for the homeowner to be aware of what advantages and disadvantages of signing with this particular contractor.

3. Contract Disputes

If you’ve already signed the contract and are unhappy with any aspect of the work, then you must have a serious talk with the Contractor and come to a mutual decision on the terms and payment. Some of the common Contract Disputes can be:

I. Quality of Materials installed is different from what was agreed upon

Change orders: Disputes can arise between a homeowner and the contractor when the homeowner requests a change to the original scope of work.

The contract states the mutual agreement of what has been discussed and agreed within both the contractor and the homeowner. However, at times if there are discussions and updates that didn’t proceed with an updated contract. In another word, if it has proceeded without a written contract, it can be seen as it’s the contractor not doing it right.

Cost overruns: An over budget occurs when the final cost of the project exceeds the original budget. It may be caused by unexpected expenses or changes to the scope of work.

II. Expectation vs reality

Quality of work: There can be disputes if the homeowner is not satisfied with the quality of the contractor’s work. A number of issues can be involved, including shoddy workmanship, substandard materials, or non-compliance with building codes.

You will have a set of expectations of what you think it will be like but in the reality, it can be somewhat different. It isn’t always bad, some renovation and interior changes can go on smooth sailing but there are a lot of aspects that can go haywire. Having to know the common expectations and the more realistic options may help you with design choices in the future.

III. Scheduling conflicts & Renovation delay

In the renovation industry, slight delays are common. However, the homeowner has to note if the delay is reasonable. There may be conflicts, disputes, and drama over unreasonable delays. To minimize the hassles, it is recommended to not pay in full while being stuck in a situation like this. As there are renovation scam cases on the rise, homeowners should be careful when engaging Contractors for renovation.

IV. Confused Contract Terms

Just like any other contract, homeowners should ensure they understand every part of it before signing it. Should there be a query, it should be communicated and understood before it’s signed.

V. Markup Prices

It’s true that most ID usually charges more than a contractor. In fact, price markups can sometimes be double a contractor’s quotation. Unlike Interior Designers, Contractors don’t provide the whole spectrum of service and coordination like Designers do. What they are changing is usually based on the cost price of materials, labouring, and nothing else much. However, most contractors will not be able to help much in terms of Design, they execute based on your instructions. If the design is required, that would possibly raise the price in the quotation.

4. Poor Workmanship

Poor workmanship can take many forms, sometimes it happens because the contractor simply didn’t follow the architectural plans or sometimes rush the work or install something incorrectly. It would also be worst if they have done something unsafe or dangerous.

5. Defects after moving in

A home renovation can easily turn into a nightmare for the homeowner if engaged someone is not responsible. Some contractors don’t cover construction defects after you’ve moved in.

Additional patched-up may be done by your contractor if the defects are realized in the given warranty period by the contractor. In some cases, defects stated by homeowners may be defined as imperfections and not defects. Such as light scratch marks, excess sealants & others. Some of these, but perhaps not all may be rectified by the contractors out of goodwill.

Condo Tapestry by Angelyn Karen 3

6. Problems with permits

Always ensure you sign a contract with a Licensed Contractor. Failure to obtain permits can delay the whole renovation of your home. Making sure you hired someone that understands the HDB renovation guidelines is important too.

7. Unlevel/uneven flooring

Flooring is one of the major costs in any renovation work, and no homeowner wishes to have waves of uneven bumps and surfaces after the renovation. This uneven flooring may result in being a hazard for young kids and elderly people in the house, as they may be prone to tripping over uneven surfaces.

8. Appliances don’t fit into the customized cabinet

Often a customized cabinet is suited to fit in your appliances and gadget so you can use them efficiently. You may have measured the appliances to fit into the shelvings/cabinet and given them to the Contractor. If the size measured in the final cabinetry is the same as the size given yet not able to fit in the customized cabinet, it may have been a human error.

9. Contract ceased halfway through the Renovation

Some homeowners live in half-renovated flats amid renovation delays, and some couldn’t get the contractor to continue the renovation. In the worst situation, the contractor may have ditched the project silently and disappeared.

10. Waterproofing leakage 

Water leakage can cause damage to your expensive furniture and fixtures on your property. Water can be very destructive, upon realizing the leakage… homeowners will need to communicate with their contractor immediately so they can execute solving the issue together.


Homeowner/contractor disputes arise every day for a variety of reasons. Even when you think you’ve hired the right contractor, your project can go wrong if communication and discussion aren’t clear.

To prevent these disputes, homeowners should carefully choose a reputable and qualified contractor. In addition, they should clearly define the scope of work, budget, and payment terms in a written contract. Homeowners and contractors may also be able to resolve any issues that arise during the course of the project by communicating and engaging in open dialogue.

Communicate with your contractor or the liable party, lodging Small Claims Tribunal if the date of the cause of action is not more than a year ago and claiming sum is up to $10,000 (or up to $20,000 if the contractor consents to an SCT hearing). You may also consider lodging a complaint with CASE if your matter is a consumer-to-business dispute. CASE can either correspond with the contractor on your behalf or draft a letter to the contractor to address your concerns.

Improving your home should be an exciting journey. Don’t let it turn into a nightmare…

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