Residents see red over DBSS flats' defects, which include black marks all over floor
Developers liable for a year, but defect definition debatable, say agents
When Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flats were introduced in 2005, they were the talk of the town for boasting condominium-like quality furnishings.
A decade later, they are back in the spotlight for the opposite reason - substandard furnishings that fail to live up to their billing.
And while the parties involved have been playing the blame game, the onus falls squarely on the private developers of these DBSS projects to address the residents' problems, said industry experts The New Paper spoke to.
On May 14, over 200 residents of Trivelis, a DBSS project in Clementi, had a dialogue session with their MP, Ms Sim Ann, to air their concerns.
Close to half of the 888 units there had been plagued by problems like shattered glass shower doors, protruding floor boards and rusty dish racks.
But Trivelis' troubles are just the tip of the iceberg.
Residents of other DBSS properties have also come forward to share similar problems.
It is reasonable for DBSS residents to expect the high price tags to come with high-quality finishes, said Mr George Ng, 55, senior property agent at HSR International Realtors.
"DBSS flats are around 30 per cent more expensive than normal Housing Board (HDB) flats because they come with built-in furnishings by private developers."
Mr Ng added that these private developers are liable for any defects for a one-year period upon the collection of keys under the Sales & Purchase Agreement.
"There is a 12-month defects liability period, during which the developer is required to rectify any defects within the unit."
However, what constitutes a defect remains debatable.
According to a circular drafted by Trivelis' interim residents committee, the developer, EL Development (ELD), has maintained that its designs and building works meet the minimum standards and have been cleared by the relevant authorities.
It is difficult to define a defect, said Mrs Fanny Kok, owner of Kok Interior Design and Contracts. She added that in her line of work, she has met many demanding customers who overstate the imperfections in their homes.
However, she said home owners should not expect to find any flaws when they first move in.
"If you move in and things are already (starting to spoil), then it's obviously a defect."
Affected DBSS residents can come together to file a class action lawsuit, said lawyer Raphael Louis of Ray Louis Law Corporation, but he advised that legal recourse should be the final resort.
Mr Louis told TNP: "The first recourse should be to negotiate with the developer on an individual basis during the defects liability period."
Although some Trivelis residents have sought assistance from HDB, Mr Louis said that when it comes to DBSS disputes, it is difficult to bring HDB into the picture.
"The contract is between the home owner and the developer, not HDB."
Mr Nicholas Mak, executive director of SLP International, agreed, adding: "When you drive a car and get into an accident, how can you blame those in charge of the roads?"
Still, a spokesman for HDB told TNP that HDB will play an active role to ensure a fair and satisfactory outcome.
The spokesman said: "HDB is aware of the residents' concerns and is actively getting the developer to address them. We are also in touch with the local MP.
"Discussions are ongoing between the developer and the residents and HDB closely monitors the progress."
The spokesman added that apart from the defects liability period, there are other provisions that protect the interests of home buyers.
At the May 14 dialogue session, which ELD did not attend, Ms Sim Ann told reporters that ELD is working out a "goodwill package" for Trivelis residents, although details of the package are still being kept under wraps.
ELD has said that it is considering extending the one-year warranty on all furnishings and fittings.
Trivelis is the only DBSS property developed by ELD, which handles both residential and industrial projects.
If you move in and things are already (starting to spoil), then it's obviously a defect.
- Mrs Fanny Kok, owner of Kok Interior Design and Contracts