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Key Guidelines for Preventing and Resolving Disputes During Renovations

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Renovating is important for creating a home you love. But when there’s miscommunication, extra charges, poor work, or defects, disputes can turn your dream home into a nightmare. These conflicts are more common than you might think and can increase costs and delay completion. Here are tips to avoid and resolve renovation disputes.

Guidelines for Hiring a Service Provider for Your Property Renovation

Differentiate between a contractor and an interior designer (ID). A contractor does the work, while an ID guides the design and manages contractors. Not all IDs have their own contractors; some subcontract. Clearly define tasks the provider will handle and those subcontracted. Subcontracting can offer expertise but may reduce control over work quality.

Check where you got info on the contractor or ID. If friends recommended them, get their feedback. Ask around and do some research. Look at how long the service provider has been operating. For contractors, consider those under the CASETRUST-RCMA Joint Accreditation scheme. If you’re renovating an HDB unit, make sure contractors are registered with HDB.

Renovation Contract Tips

Contracts are vital for clear documentation. Avoid depending on verbal promises, as they can be hard to prove and enforce in court. Take note of the following key points:

  1. Variations: Changes are common during renovations. Add a variations clause for flexibility, and since this often leads to disputes, review it thoroughly.
  2. Defects: Note any remaining defects with photos and a list. After renovation, use this list to address defects systematically.
  3. Warranty: Confirm the warranty terms are fair and not too biased toward the service provider.
  4. Dispute Resolution: Look for a clause with a clear, agreed method to resolve disputes and avoid future issues.
  5. Liquidated Damages: Specify damages if the contractor misses agreed timelines. It can simplify claims, but the amount should be reasonable.
  6. Schedule: Work with your contractor to make a schedule with clear deadlines for completion and corrections. Make sure it’s part of your renovation contract.
  7. Payment: Be careful if the service provider wants full payment upfront; most use a progressive payment plan. Set up a payment schedule tied to milestones agreed upon by the contractor.

If you find yourself in a disagreement during renovations…

Here are some ways to deal with these situations positively:

1. Talk to the responsible party directly.

Begin a conversation with the contractor to resolve the issue before exploring other options. Check if the contractor has violated any contract terms. If there’s a breach, express your concerns based on the contract and allow the service provider to fix the problem or propose a fair compromise. If the problem involves defective materials from a subcontractor, the main service provider should take responsibility.

2. Report to CASE

If the contractor denies breaking the agreement terms, file a complaint with CASE. They will contact the contractor or send a formal letter about your complaint. Keep in mind that CASE doesn’t have the power to issue mandatory orders in response to complaints.

Mediation with CASE is a budget-friendly way for homeowners to settle renovation disputes, much more affordable than lengthy lawsuits. If the mediation resolves the issue, a new binding agreement can settle the complaint. If the contractor breaks this agreement, it’s a strong basis for a lawsuit.

3.  Seeking legal counsel or initiating legal action.

As stated in the original renovation contract, you might have to try mandatory mediation or arbitration first for the dispute. If other resolution options are exhausted and the seeking legal advice from a lawyer could be an option.

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