How does HDB rectify defects in newly completed flats?


How does HDB rectify defects in newly completed flats?


HDB has a system in place to ensure that the quality of its new flats meet acceptable industry standards. They abide by a clear set of guidelines and impose quality checks at every stage of construction. including pre-and post construction.


BCA Checking BTO flats
BCA assessors John Koh (left) and Simon Yee in a flat with their tools, which include a tablet, spirit level, 3mm thick plastic and paper gauge. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES


For example, contractors are required to inspect completed flats and carry out the necessary rectification works to the full satisfaction of HDB’s quality officers, before handing the flats over to HDB. Despite the stringent process, some minor imperfections may still remain due to the inherent features of natural materials or the nature of construction works that are dependent on manual labour.



HDB Check on BTO flat
BCA assessor John Koh inspecting the floor of a new BTO flat in Fernvale Street. Conquas scores have been rising, said HDB.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES


As part of our commitment to quality, we provide all new HDB flat owners with HDB’s Assure 3 warranty coverage for ceiling and external wall seepage, and spalling concrete. This is in addition to the 1-year Defects Liability Period (DLP) for all new property owners to report defects for rectification, a timeframe similar to private sector developments.


HDB advises new flat owners to inspect their flat and report any defects to their development’s Building Services Centre (BSC) within the DLP. During this period, the BSCs are conveniently located near the new flats for owners to report the defects for prompt follow up by the contractors. Subsequently, flat owners can report any defects to their HDB Branch.
In general, defects reported are rectified within two weeks. In cases where the contractor requires more time, for reasons such as unavailability of materials, flat owners will be informed of the expected completion date.



Replacing floor tiles
Replacing defect floor tile


The issue of defects rectification can be made more trying and complex when there are differences in understanding and expectations. An imperfection may be seen as a defect, and this usually happens with home owners who expect their new flat to be in pristine condition. While this is understandable, adopting zero tolerance towards defects and imperfections is not a reasonable expectation.


A recent encounter with a flat owner over the level difference between the floor tiles in his new flat is a case in point. While the level difference between the floor tiles in his flat had met industry standards, he found it unacceptable despite several rounds of rectification, as he expected the laid tiles to be perfectly even.
Some flat owners may also report ‘defects’ that are actually imperfections that arise from the nature of the product or manufacturing process.


For example, for floors with timber finishes, some owners have given feedback on the colour inconsistencies. As timber is a natural, organic product, the shade and grain of each strip of the timber will vary. It is thus not possible to achieve a perfectly homogenous look.
In the case of ceramic floor tiles, some owners have reported the gaps between the tiles as ‘defects’. These gaps are not defects as such. Ceramic tiles are produced at high temperatures and the tiles will shrink upon cooling.

The extent to which each tile shrinks may vary slightly. To accommodate the slight variations in dimensions, the tiles are laid with gaps in between, and cement grout is used to fill these gaps.


We acknowledge that there are times when defects may still remain despite everyone’s best efforts. HDB will make good on the defects caused by manufacturing lapses, or when the work is not up to standard. There are prevailing industry standards and practices which serve as objective arbiters for both public and private developments in cases of doubt and dispute.



HDB checks will go towards a score under the Construction Quality Assessment System (Conquas), which reflects the overall workmanship quality. The higher the Conquas score, which is upon 100, the better the workmanship.


Quality Scores of new HDB flats
Click to view larger image


Recently, several housing projects made the news.

Residents in Waterway Terraces I, a BTO project, complained about rainwater seeping into their flats last month.




I feel there should be a penalty on top of this for errant developers, so hopefully they will be more careful in their work.”


PROJECT MANAGER ANDY TAN, a resident at Trivelis, which has a Conquas score of 87.1. The Design, Build and Sell project was in the news recently when residents complained about defects or design flaws in their flats.
Residents in Design, Build and Sell Scheme projects such as Centrale 8 and Trivelis also complained of defects or design flaws like wall cracks and uneven or stained tiles on floors.


Project manager Andy Tan, 33, a resident at Trivelis, which has a Conquas score of 87.1, said: “This is very surprising, because my flat definitely had defects like scratches on the floor tiles before I moved in.


“I’m not sure how thorough the checks are.

“I feel there should be a penalty on top of this for errant developers, so hopefully they will be more careful in their work.”


The MND spokesman noted that there will be some “imperfections” due to “high dependency on workmanship of individual workers”.

There are also latent defects, and defects such as hairline cracks may surface only later due to “movement” such as vibrations from renovation works.


“For these reasons, a one-year Defect Liability Period is provided for all projects, to allow for rectification if necessary,” she said.

Common feedback includes uneven joints or gaps in between tiles, hairline wall cracks and colour inconsistency of timber flooring.


“These do not affect the structural integrity of the building, and can be rectified easily and quickly. (They) do not compromise the functionality or livability of these homes,” she added.

“The high Conquas score is an affirmation that the quality of HDB flats has not been compromised despite the ramp-up of our building programme in the last few years.”


All public sector building projects with a contract sum above $5 million will undergo such checks. About one in four public homes gets checked directly.


She added that the HDB has a list of recommended building materials and equipment suppliers and contractors have to adhere to it. There are also audits and checks to ensure the work completed is consistent with the approved plans.


Conquas passing standards have also been raised over the years, including stricter assessment criteria, she noted.

There is no “rescoring”, which means the Conquas score is final. There is a list on BCA’s website.


“This motivates the builder to adopt good workmanship quality in all areas prior to assessment,” said the spokesman.
Teacher Y.P. Chew, 28, who bought a BTO flat in the Kallang area, noted: “It’s good to know that on average, workmanship is of better quality, but that said, it’s of no comfort if my flat contains defects. I would be worried (about) getting the defects resolved in good time.”





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