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HDB Licensed Renovation Contractors. Facts Revealed!

Before you decide on hiring a renovation firm, it’s crucial to understand the importance and facts of working only with HDB-licensed renovation contractors. 

You’ve collected the keys to your new BTO flat and you are feeling excited about renovating your first home.

You begin to contemplate about the styles for your new home – Minimalist or Muji? Contemporary or shabby chic? Scandinavian maybe?

With a triple “OK” in your head, you feel the impulse to plunge straight into the project but don’t seem to be well ahead of it.

Beware though, it’s all too easy to get carried away with your every passing whim and fancy.

And because it is your first time, the challenges of renovating your property appears rather daunting.  

Let us walk you through and have them answered here.

Why Must I Hire HDB-Licensed Renovation Contractors

Must I Hire HDB-Licensed Renovation Contractors?

Given past incidents involving the renovation and construction sector, it prompted the Housing & Development Board (HDB) to make this a mandatory rule in 2006.

Within this legislation, HDB flat owners must hire HDB-licensed renovation contractors in order to carry out renovation works in their homes. They include window contractors and electricians as well.

All licensed contractors are registered and listed in HDB’s Directory of Renovation Contractors (DRC)

They must satisfy a set of stringent criteria before they are eligible for accreditation . 

 

1. The company has to be registered with ACRA and have a minimum paid-up capital of $30,000 if they are a private-limited company.

2. The contractor must have ownership of the company for at least one year.

3. The contractor must possess at least three years of renovation work experience and be actively involved in the trade.

4. The company should have a clean record.

5. The contractor has to undergo and successfully complete a training course on ‘Renovation for Public Housing’ from the HDB.

Are HDB-Licensed Renovation Contractors Regulated?

Technically speaking, yes.

In Nov 2016, former MP of Nee Soon GRC, Dr. Lee Bee Wah raised the issue on tighter regulation of home renovation contractors in parliament.

Back then, licensed professionals were registered under HDB’s Registered Renovation Contractors’ Scheme (RRCS), which later underwent a change of name to the Directory of Renovation Contractors (DRC).

No renovation contractor is allowed to carry out any renovation work on HDB properties unless registered with and listed in the DRC.

The responsibility is on them to ensure the timely completion of renovation works while adhering to HDB’s strict safety standards.

HDB also adopts the Demerit Points System (DPS) to enforce action on cases of non-compliance. 

Depending on the infringement’s severity, demerit points, fines and suspension are imposed on the offender.

Contractors who chalked up a total of 24 demerit points within 24 months will be delisted from HDB’s Directory of Registered Contractors (DRC).

Hence, the DPS ensures good performance and compliance to HDB’s renovation rules for all HDB-licensed renovation contractors. 

The three core rules are :

 

1. Work conducted does not cause damage to HDB’s property.

2. Work is conducted safely.

3. Work does not cause any nuisance to neighbouring units.

 

Against this backdrop, it successfully creates a sort of “self-regulating” environment for the industry, thus providing assurance to home owners. 

Friendly reminder: Our advanced filter function empowers you to locate all HDB-licensed renovation contractors in Singapore in less than a minute.

Say No To Non-HDB Licensed Renovation Contractors

These are the ones you must guard against.

Do you know that under the law, it is illegal for non-HDB licensed renovation contractors to market their services or perform any renovation related work?

To clinch business fast, rogue contractors and renovation scammers often deploy “fanciful” tactics to convince home owners to hire them.

A tried and tested method is to “bait” potential customers with attractively low prices in the form “limited-time offers” and “special promotions”.

Some hunt for preys at newly completed HDB blocks using flyer hand-outs at void decks or go door-to-door, offering irresistible discounts on their services.

Due to the pandemic, costs for labour and building materials have increased significantly, resulting in home owners having to pay 10 to 20 percent higher, thus making these “low-price” tactics even more appealing.    

There are also others who go to the extent of displaying fake accreditations in social media advertisements or bogus client reviews to prove their credibility.

Upon closing a sale, the rogue contractor then pays a fee to “borrow” a HDB licence from another accredited entity to carry out their renovation work.  

Lastly, there is also the risk of unskilled or under-trained workers hired by an unlicensed contractor to perform renovation work on your property.

All these without you knowing.

The end goal of their modus operandi – to convince and convert unsuspecting victims into a paying client, and profiteer.

We illustrate two examples below with dire consequences.

Scenario 1

The unlicensed renovation contractor recommends you to replace the flooring in your flat (without telling you an approval is required from the HDB).

Unaware, you heed his word without the slightest idea it is illegal to do so.

Upon inspection by HDB, you are dragged to court and issued with fines. You are also ordered to bear all costs for the reinstatement work.  

JIa lat lor!

Scenario 2

Few months after renovating your toilet, your neighbour who lives below your unit lodge a complaint against you. 

Water is seeping through their toilet’s ceiling. Upon inspection, it points to a bad water-proofing job done by untrained workers from the unlicensed contractor.

You are issued with an order to redo the toilet flooring with proper water-proofing.

Siao liao lor!

 

In both scenarios, other than having to bear the costs of reinstatement work, you would also face a fine of $5,000 or more for hiring a non-HDB licensed contractor to carry out renovation work on your property.

So be warned and don’t take the risk! Hire only HDB-licensed renovation contractors.

But Some Interior Designers Don’t Have a HDB Licence

To set the record straight, renovation contractors and interior designers have different responsibilities and specializations.

Renovation contractors are the people who undertake and execute the actual renovation works.

They have a team of craftsmen who are trained in various tasks such as structural hacking, tile and flooring laying, carpentry etc.

Other than these craftsmen, some firms have a team of trained interior designers and project managers to provide a full suite of design and build services. 

For these reasons, the HDB require renovation contractors to be registered and be accredited with a HDB licence.

This is to ensure compliance of architectural safety standards and guidelines when they perform renovation work within HDB properties.         

As in the case of interior designers, they are the professionals who conceptualize, do space planning and visualize the look of an interior space.

Although trained interior designers possess architectural and structural safety knowledge, they do not carry out actual renovation work.

Hence, it is not mandatory for an interior designer to be accredited with a HDB licence.

It is common for them to work with HDB-licensed renovation contractors and deliver the end goals together.

Other HDB-Licensed Contractors Featured Image

What About Other Licensed Contractors?

Other than a HDB-licensed renovation contractor, what about the electrician, plumber or windows installer assigned to my home’s renovation?

Must they be licensed too? The answer is yes.

Often times, the main renovation contractor (whom you hired) collaborate with other sub-contractors who are specialised in their respective domains.

These third parties will then deploy their workers to do the work on your premise.

Both the main and sub contractors are responsible to engage only licensed workers for electrical, regulated sanitary and window works.

They understand that it is an offence to engage knowingly any person(s) who is not licensed to carry out such works.

If in doubt, you can request them to produce their licence and validate the worker’s legitimacy with the relevant authorities below.

Licensed Electrical Worker (LEW)

Under the law, electrical work mentioned below can only be carried out or supervised by a Licensed Electrical Worker (LEW).

– Installation, repair or modification of electrical wiring.

– Addition, extension or replacement of electrical power points like socket-outlets, switches or lighting points.

– Repair or replacement of consumer control units or circuit breakers.

A licensed electrician is issued with an identification card that displays the person’s photograph and name, identity card number and licence number.

Below is an example of how this card looks like.

You could also visit the Energy Market Authority (EMA) portal to search and validate a licensed electrical worker here.

Licensed Electrician I.D Card

Certified Electrician Licence Sample

Licensed Air-Conditioner Installer

It’s quite common for your contractor would partner with an air-con service provider to handle the work as part of your renovation project.

You might also purchase air-conditioner units directly from stores, where it comes with free installation.   

Be aware that under Regulation 41B (2) of the Building Control Regulations 2003, air-conditioning unit installation works can only be carried out by trained individuals certified by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

You can find a list of trained air-conditioning unit installers who are registered with BCA here.

Licensed Plumber

With effect on 1 April 2018, the National Water Agency (aka PUB) revised the licensing scheme for plumbers, requiring all qualified plumbers in Singapore to be licensed.

In the case of regulated sanitary works, only PUB-licensed plumbers can perform them or work is carried out under the direct supervision of a licensed plumber.

Handymen without such a licence will only be allowed to carry out simple plumbing works.

The PUB has in place a Demerit Point System (similar to HDB’s DPS), to ensure that accredited plumbers abide by a set of rules and regulations.

Under this system, the Singapore Plumbing Society (SPS) clearly state in their website how non-compliance will result in enforcement actions along with the issuance of demerit points.

Registered SPS members are also issued with a membership card to certify their status. See the examples below.   

Home owners can search for and validate PUB-licensed plumbers here.

PUB-Licensed Plumber & SPS Member

PUB Licensed Plumber Pass Sample

Non PUB-Licensed Plumber & SPS Associate Member

Non PUB Licensed Plumber registered with Singapore Plumbing Society

Licensed Window Contractor

The HDB is extremely strict with the safety requirements and work standards of windows retrofitted in all HDB properties.

You are responsible to upkeep and maintain in good working conditions of all the windows in your home at all times.

HDB also makes it mandatory that all window checks, repairs, retro-fittings, installations, and replacements be conducted according to the Building Control Regulations.

These works can only be performed by a Building and Construction Authority (BCA) approved window contractor.

In addition, approved contractors must be registered with BCA’s Registry System (CRS) under the regulatory work-head RW01.

You can check out the list of BCA-approved window contractors here.

Why Work With HDB-Licensed Renovation Contractors?

Your Pain Point…

I’m a new home owner and it’s my first time renovating. I don’t have any idea who I should work with and where to begin with.

Frankly, I prefer to have someone who knows the ins and outs of the renovation process and can offer me the best advice.

 

What a HDB-Licensed Renovation Contractor Can Do…

No sweat. The first thing you should do is to read this step-by-step Home Renovation Guide.

In it, you will find extremely helpful advice and tips to help you start your home renovation journey.

When you’re ready to meet up with a list of shortlisted contractors, they will

1. Ask you detailed questions to understand your requirements.

2. Discuss about your renovation budget and explain the end results that could be achieved with it.

3. Show and introduce to you some materials that would be used for your renovation.

4. Briefly explain the start-end processes for the project.

5. Provide you a cost estimate of the renovation project based on your requirements.

Your Pain Point…

I know a renovation permit is needed before renovation work can commence. Do I have to personally handle the application process?

 

What a HDB-Licensed Renovation Contractor Can Do…

Your contractor will help you take care of the required paperwork and permits for the renovation work.

Your property’s floor plan with the proposed renovation works are submitted to the HDB branch that manages your flat for approval.

The permit application can be done online or in person.

HDB does not charge any fee for the processing of the permit.

Once the permit is approved, the contractor will display it prominently at the lift under your block, at the same floor of your unit, and also outside your flat.

Your Pain Point…

I can only spend $25,000 for my 3-room BTO flat renovation and I don’t wish to exceed this budget.

How can I maximise this amount for my renovation?

 

What a HDB-Licensed Renovation Contractor Can Do…

Your contractor is the best person to give you good advice on ways to maximise your renovation budget.

For example, instead of expensive parquet wood flooring, they could ask you to consider cheaper alternatives such as using vinyl flooring or ceramic floor tiles instead.     

The same goes for carpentry work. Instead of expensive solid core timber, they could suggest a cheaper timber grade instead for display cabinets, storage cabinets and wardrobes, etc.

Depending on your needs, they may also recommend you to consider taking a renovation package to stretch your budget a little more.

Many accredited contractors offer a good variety of renovation packages at reasonable prices. It’s also possible that your contractor gives you the flexibility to add on or take out work items in a package.

You can choose from hundreds of renovation packages available here for your upcoming home renovation.

Your Pain Point…

I’ve read horror stories of renovation projects gone wrong. Any way for me to avoid these?

 

What a HDB-Licensed Renovation Contractor Can Do…

These unfortunate incidents mostly involve non-HDB licensed contractors and scammers. 

That is why we keep emphasizing the importance of engaging renovation contractors who holds a valid HDB licence. 

Although there are no 100 percent guarantees, the risks involved are very low when you hire a licensed contractor.

For even better protection, you should also look at contractors who are accredited by CaseTrust and the Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association (RCMA).

Last but not least, learn what are the Top 14 Singapore Home Renovation Mistakes so you will avoid those renovation pitfalls.

Author Gwen Tan

Gwen Tan

“A slave to 2 cats & has a weakness for K-dramas.”