News: Homeowners still expect delays in renovation works even after circuit breaker

May 19, 2020

Despite the government’s announcement that renovations works can resume after 1 June, Siti Nurlina Yunus does not expect works at her Buangkok flat to be carried out on full speed.

Renovation work at her new HDB flat, which started in early March, was put on hold when the circuit breaker kicked in on 7 April, reported TODAY.

“I understand that factories might be closed and resources might be lacking,” said the 27-year old Customer Service Officer. “I am not surprised that it will lead to some delay.”

Much like other homeowners, Nurlina is waiting for an update coming from her renovation contractor.

Contractors expect continued delays as they struggle to meet stringent measures put in place by authorities before work can resume. Several are also facing labour crunch, given that some of their workers returned to Malaysia and may not be able to return back to Singapore in time due to a Movement Control Order (MCO) imposed by the Malaysian government, which runs until 9 June.

Related: East or West? HDB’s May 2020 BTO Launch at Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Tengah, Pasir Ris, and Tampines

The inter-agency task force managing the spread of Covid-19 among migrant workers announced on 15 May that some construction activities may resume from 2 June, provided employers ensure their workers’ safety. The criteria include setting up a system that enables employers to track the health of their workers daily as well as regular Covid-19 test for workers.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who is in-charge of Singapore’s response to the pandemic, also revealed that authorities are also looking at allowing renovation projects to resume if contractors can ensure their workers’ safety, including in the areas of transport, work arrangements and housing.

Five home renovation contractors interviewed by TODAY shared that they are keen on quickly resuming work. And while they have set up safe-management guidelines to follow, obstacles remain.

Dave Wong, Director of interior design firm Areana Creation, said: “In this (renovation) line, we have to work with people from so many different industries — electricians, carpenters, plumbers.”

“We might be able to resume work, but they might not.”

Richard Yea, CEO of interior design company Design 4 Space, said that since most of their skilled workers went home to Malaysia and may not be able return after the lifting of the circuit breaker, their company will have to rely on their in-house tilers and carpenters to fill the void.

Renovation contractor Empire Works’ owner, Ivan Woo, said resuming works require the coordination among various parties involved as well as the cooperation to adhere to a strict schedule to prevent the deployment of workers across different projects.

The contractors also noted that increasing costs arising from the stringent measures may also pose a challenge in an industry that is already suffering from thin profit margins.

This is set to be aggravated by the need to implement measures like having one sub-contractor only at a worksite at any time, setting up quick reponse (QR) codes for contact-tracing at each worksite and performing more work off-site.

These arrangements may raise cost, particularly when work has to be done off-site in factories, prior to moving the materials to worksites, said Wong.

“At this point, we are not sure if suppliers will be charging us additional fees. We will have to see,” he added.

Yea also noted that some sub-contractors may also need to repeatedly return to worksites if the work is not up to scratch, worsening delays and driving up costs.

Despite these, the contractors assured that they would not pass to homeowners any cost increases.

“When they signed the contract with us, we told them about the cost upfront… so we would not charge them unless it is for changes in items they requested,” said Wong.

Yea also said that his company will absorb any cost increases, which he believes would be marginal.

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Victor Kang, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories, email victorkang@propertyguru.com.sg

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